Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011Posted: 11:20 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
The Bears defensive line ran into something of a problem this week that could be something of a real problem on Sunday.
You always want to study film on an upcoming opponent, to clarify strengths and things to stay from, and to identify weaknesses and things you can exploit. In the case of latter when it came to New Orleans Saints guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, forget about it.
We were trying to find some tape where they actually got beat, defensive tackle Henry Melton said, shaking his head and marveling. It was hard to find.
So will sacks be for Melton, who had two in his first start last Sunday, against Atlanta.
If you want a great first-hand idea of what Jay Cutler is going to be put through (at least thats the Saints plan) on Sunday, give a serious read to the analysis of Gregg Williams defenses done by Comcast SportsNet colleague Jim Miller in his "15 on 6" blog.
Jimmy faced Williams defenses, which are distant cousins to the Buddy Ryan groups that had an unspoken bounty deal working on opposing quarterbacks. For all of the fascination with the Bears newfound prowess with the screen pass, Jimmy doesnt see Williams letting the Bears repeat that. And the premium may well be placed on Cutler's accuracy down the field, which gets into a whole other issue, whether his offensive line can protect for that approach to work in the Noise-a-torium known as the Superdome.
Great thought on how to help the young Bears tackles: no-huddle. It worked for Green Bay. Its traditionally a way of minimizing blitz opps. Aaah, but heres the rub: The Packers were at home, this is on the road, and huddling takes time, which is a solid way of keeping Drew Brees and that offense watching.
Think about this
I mentioned this in the main advance for this game but it warrants repeating: Smith's Bears are 42-9 when opponents score 17 or fewer points.
But throw this in along with it, and you get a real glimpse into it takes to make a championship team, which the Bears most definitely believe they are.
Lovie Smith Bears teams are 54-10 when they score 18 or more points.
Now, refine all of this into cause-effect terms:
In the three playoff years under Smith, the Bears were 25-5 when they capped opposing point totals at 17 or less (2005, 11-1); 2006, 8-1; 2010, 6-3). And when they scored 18 or more, the record has been a net 28-1 (2005, 6-0; 2006, 12-0; 2010, 10-1).
What you really see in all this is why the Bears believe they can be something seriously great with Cutler and the offense taking a step up. They know their defense is solid and they win when they play D. When they put points on the board from the offense, they become legitimate NFC Championship or Super Bowl prospects.
Oh, in case youre wondering, the only time in three playoff years when the Bears scored 18 and didnt win the game? The Seattle game last year, a 23-20 loss to Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks.
With all of that, what happens Sunday?
The Saints are favored, by about a touchdown, which says that the better public isnt convinced that the Bears are as good as an 18-point winner over the Atlanta Falcons, or that the Saints can be beaten at home by a team with an offensive line thatll be given its most severe test since the New York Giants game last season. That was a road game as well.
If this game is early last season, the Saints are the pick. The reason is pretty simple: That offensive line was in real trouble (five different front fives in the first seven games) from the start. This one isnt even in the discussion with that bunch.
Not one starter from the first five games last year is in the same position as he was last year. A lot of ink and sound has been spent talking about the problems of line continuity but in this case, that kind of turnover is a good thing, not a bad one.
What that means is that Cutler will not automatically be in the peril he was last season, and of the five sacks he took against the Falcons, only two of those were the lines fault and Cutler can eliminate others with more timely release.
The Bears defense simply does not get trampled, and the Saints without Marques Colston are missing a huge field-stretching threat. That means that the defense can tighten down on the Saints running game (just a guess here, but they spent a No. 1 pick on Alabamas Mark Ingram not to upgrade their passing offense).
If the Saints cant get the Bears into a shootout and force CutlerMike Martz to abandon balance, the Bears will be 2-0 come sundown:
Bears 23, Saints 20
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.