The last four quarterbacks to start against the New Orleans Saints don’t exactly have a pretty track record: Brett Hundley, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and Cam Newton combined to complete 74 of 131 passes for 730 yards with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. On a per-game average, that comes out to a 56 percent completion rate, 183 yards, less than one touchdown and two interceptions.
New Orleans’ defense may be prone to allowing yards (5.7 per play, 27th in the NFL), but they’re allowing an average of 22.2 points per game (16th), so this isn’t necessarily a leaky defense. Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranks the Saints’ defense 15th, backing up the traditional numbers: This is about an average defense, but one that succeeds against the pass (6th in passing DVOA).
It’s also a defense that struggles against the run. Opposing rushers have averaged 4.9 yards per carry against the Saints, tied for the second-highest average in the league.
And it’s worth noting that the Saints had at least one takeaway in their four wins; in their two losses, they didn’t force a turnover. Worth noting, too: Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen was John Fox’s defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos in 2011.
So this all begs the question: Is this the game for the Bears to open things up for Mitchell Trubisky?
“Dennis does a good job,” Fox said. “I think they got off to a little bit of a rough start both against Minnesota and then New England, but I think they’ve improved and you see that. I think that’s why their record has improved. They’ve run off four in a row and are playing really good football right now.
“… (They’ve improved) just in assignments, guys playing with better eyes, guys being where they’re supposed to me. We had some of the same ills to start the season, but we’ve improved and so have they.”
The Bears can find a way for Trubisky to throw the ball more than seven times with some safe, quick gain concepts, or try to get him out of the pocket on play-action rollouts if the Saints’ defense allows it. The issue of running the ball is an interesting one, too: Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart is the only running back to face eight or more men in the box on over 50 percent of his runs against the Saints this year.
If the Saints don’t stack the box, it could allow the Bears to do what they did so well against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. And that could mean Trubisky doesn’t throw the ball a whole lot.
But as long as the Bears emerge with a win — which, to drive home the point, would get this team to .500 halfway through the season — it doesn’t matter how conservative the plan is for their rookie quarterback.
“Winning’s the most important thing,” Trubisky said. “I don’t care if I throw zero passes if we win the game. I don’t care if I’m not playing if we’re winning the game. As long as the Chicago Bears are winning, we’re doing something right.”