The Bears probably will need to have an effective passing game to beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. And they’ll have to do so in cold, windy conditions (Bear Weather? Bear Weather!) – and, possibly, without wide receiver Allen Robinson.
Robinson is in the concussion protocol and missed both Wednesday and Thursday’s practices at Halas Hall. Recovery timelines from concussions are notoriously difficult to predict, and the Bears do need to be prepared to play without their No. 1 wide receiver on Sunday.
“It’s like a lot of these other teams when they lose a star player on any side of the ball – it’s always gonna hurt you,” head coach Matt Nagy said. “Because you look at it from the defensive perspective, there’s a lot of games that we go into where these teams gotta change their game plan as to how they’re gonna play against him. And so, from our end, when we’re talking about scheming, we have to make sure that we’re scheming for both sides of it. We have to be prepared that he is playing. And then we’ve got to be prepared that he’s not playing.”
(It also feels unlikely that they’ll have center Cody Whitehair, who exited Monday’s loss to the Rams with a calf injury and hasn’t practiced this week.)
The Bears’ offense is sputtering and is near the bottom of the league in most categories, right down there with the dregs of the NFL (teams like the Jets, Giants, Washington). But the Saints are beatable through the air, entering Week 8 allowing 7.2 yards per pass, 21st in the NFL. That's the opening.
But this is a Bears’ offense that’s averaging just 5.6 yards per pass (29th), and that’s with a player as good and productive as Robinson in their lineup the last seven weeks. Can Nick Foles pass the Bears to a win sans Robinson and in conditions that might not be conducive to passing anyways?
The Bears need the answer to be yes, even if it doesn’t mean Foles throwing for 300 yards and/or putting up 30 points. If the Bears’ defense can use the conditions to its advantage and physically clamp down on Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense – which means stopping Alvin Kamara on the ground – and turn this into a low-scoring, close game, Foles won’t have to do a lot. But he will have to do something, more than he did against the Los Angeles Rams.
And that's because the Saints have one of the better run defenses in the NFL.
Given how poorly the Bears have run the ball recently – colleague Adam Hoge pointed out they’re averaging 2.7 yards per carry with Foles at quarterback – it’s hard to see this being a successful day for David Montgomery, try as he might. So: The Bears need to pass to have success on offense and win this game against the 4-2 Saints.
It’s just going to be increasingly difficult to do that in blustery, cold conditions. And even more difficult if Robinson isn’t able to play.