Haugh: Bears-Saints Preview

A key question looms: Can the Bears finally move the ball against a quality foe?

David Haugh
October 17, 2019 - 6:09 pm
Categories: 

(670 The Score) The Bears (3-2) host the Saints (5-1) on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. Kickoff comes at 3:25, and the game can be heard on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Here's a breakdown.

Bears 100:

The Saints arrive as one of the NFC’s best teams. The Bears believe they still can reach that level but need to fix their offensive inconsistencies, the focus of the bye week. Mitchell Trubisky likely will return with a harness on his left shoulder, but if that injury hinders Trubisky’s ability to scramble, rushing him back could backfire. To help Trubisky, coach Matt Nagy must commit to the running game to neutralize a dangerous Saints pass rush. At one point, this matchup looked like a potential NFC Championship Game preview. Come Sunday, it’s up to the Bears to resemble a bona fide contender again – and a chance for Nagy to prove he belongs in the same play-calling category as counterpart Sean Payton.

Most intriguing matchup: Saints pass rusher Cameron Jordan vs. Bears right offensive tackle Bobby Massie

One of the game’s fiercest pass rushers, Jordan is the Bears’ version of Khalil Mack -- a dominant player capable of destroying game plans. He has five sacks this season and is a big reason why the Saints defense has allowed an average of merely 245 total yards, 178 passing yards and 13.3 points per game in their last three victories. Jordan’s presence might compel the Bears to feature the quick passing game, which allows the quarterback to get rid of the ball faster and help Massie so he fares better than Jaguars rookie right tackle Jawaan Taylor – who surrendered two sacks. Expect the Bears to assist Massie with running backs and tight ends too.

Most intriguing matchup II: Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore vs. Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson

He’s not Jalen Ramsey, but Lattimore belongs in the top tier of NFL cornerbacks. Robinson has been the Bears’ most consistent – and only? – offensive weapon this season. How well Lattimore handles this challenge could determine how well the Bears passing game impacts the outcome.

Quoting:

"If they want to talk about Cam Jordan vs. Khalil Mack and different things like that, that’s cool. I’ll ride with my guy every time and I’ll take my guys against any offensive line and any team. So, yeah, it’ll be fun."

--Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins

Quoting II: 

"Did you guys watch the (Packers-Lions) game last night? I’m not going to be critical of the officials, but some of (the penalties) are phantoms, honest to god."

--Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand when asked about left tackle Charles Leno Jr.’s league-leading eight penalties

Quoting III:

"You guys will see Sunday, 3:25 Central."

-- Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano when asked how Mack will respond to being held in check by the Raiders

Stat of the week:

Before this season, the Saints had won just once in their last 18 games when they scored 13 points or fewer. According to the Athletic, they've done that twice in six games this season – a testament to their defense and special teams.

Stat of the week II:

The Saints have outscored their six opponents by a total of six points this season, the smallest overall margin by a 5-1 team after six games since the 1988 Bills, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Stat of the week III:

The Bears average 3.4 yards per carry. Only three NFL teams have a lower per-carry average – and two of them are winless.

The difference:

Everybody keeps expecting a dropoff with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, but the Saints keep winning anyway, thanks to a stout defense and strong special teams. The potential unavailability of big-play running back Alvin Kamara won’t affect that formula. Bridgewater still has Michael Thomas to throw to and a reliable kicker in Will Lutz when the offense bogs down in the red zone against the Bears defense – which will play well back at home. Unfortunately, after five games, the Bears offense behind Trubisky inspires less confidence than the Saints offense with Bridgewater. For as many reasons as the Bears can find to win a game that could dictate the course of their season, one factor counters every argument: It has been a long time since Nagy’s offense has moved the ball against a quality opponent. That troubling trend continues Sunday.

Prediction: Saints 20, Bears 17.

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at david.haugh@entercom.com.