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Offense sputters as Saints slam Bears

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Offense sputters as Saints slam Bears

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011Posted: 3:45 p.m. Updated: 6:06 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Box score Photo gallery
Lovie: They played better than us
READ: Four units earn failing marks
READ: Bears get banged up

NEW ORLEANS Since Super Bowl XX the Louisiana Superdome has rarely been a friendly venue for the Bears. Theyve only won here once in five trips since that day in 1986.

It may be awhile before they win here again, if Sundays 30-13 loss to the Saints was any indication. The Bears will need a regrouping after failing to pick up even one first down on seven of 13 possessions on offense and allowing the Saints to score on four straight first-half possessions at one point.

They just out-played us, said safety Brandon Meriweather. Sometimes its just that simple.

Perspective was all defensive end Julius Peppers asked: Hey, last week we won, this week we lost. Remember, its very early in the regular season. We have to learn what went wrong today, study the film and get ready for next week.

That would be for the Green Bay Packers, arguably a big step up in class and the NFC North leaders at 2-0 along with the Detroit Lions, 48-3 winners over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers weathered another 400-yard passing day by rookie Cam Newton and won at Carolina 30-23.

This was just a team loss, Lovie Smith said. It only counts one game. Were 1-1 right now with another big one coming up next week.

Close, and then.

Before the standard Superdome shrill-fest crowd of 73,019, the Bears stayed close to the explosive Saints into the early third quarter, trailing just 16-13 less than four minutes after halftime. They had gone up 7-0 in the first quarter, then were battered 30-6 over the games final 52 minutes, briefly coming to life and then being shut down.

The game slid away from them with increasing speed as the Saints shut down the Chicago offense and refused to let the Chicago defense off the field.

We were on a real high last week after winning against Atlanta, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. We dont have that same feeling now.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees completed 26 of 37 passes for 270 yards, threw three touchdowns, zero interceptions, was sacked just once early and posted a rating of 118.1, the highest against the Bears in the past two seasons.

The Bears game plan was not a problem for him.

Typically when its two high safeties, Cover-2, thats typically a more conservative approach, Brees said. But our two big pass plays came against Cover-2. Today we knew the formula for winning the game ourselves.

Mauling on offense

Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked six times in the second half, five in the fourth quarter alone, and was raspy voiced after being inadvertently kicked in the throat. Pass protection collapsed with two starters out of the offensive line and New Orleans throwing blitzes from all angles mixed in with drops of as many as eight into coverage. Bears receivers could not adjust to the situations and dropped several key passes that would have resulted in third-down conversions.

It was a long day out there, Cutler said. I dont know how many sacks I took but I had to throw a lot of balls away before I wanted to.

A lot of them went to Matt Forte.

Indeed, Forte provided virtually the only offense of note. The running back had a 42-yard carry in the first quarter, then was held to seven yards on his other nine carries, but caught 10 of 14 passes thrown to him by a harried Cutler needing to check-down from primary receivers blanketed.

Fortes 166 total yards (49 rushing, 117 receiving) follow his 158 last week against Atlanta.

On a lot of the passes I caught I wasnt the primary receiver on most of them, Forte said. I did make the best of what was in front of me after catching the ball and I was able to pick up some yards throughout the game.

Most of the times the Saints were blitzing.

String broken

It was the first time a Lovie Smith Bears team has lost to the Saints, but also the first time the Bears have played New Orleans outside of Soldier Field. The Bears now get the next two games in the comfort of their own house, although the immediate concern is the Green Bay Packers arriving for a 3:15 p.m. event next Sunday.

Egregious reversals were the story of the game, committed by both offense and defense and resulting in 14 New Orleans points within the first 32 minutes of the game.

The defense had Brees and the Saints offense in a third-and-long from their 21-yard line and allowed a 79-yard TD pass.

The offense, after driving for a field goal to open the third quarter and the defense delivering a three-and-out, turned the ball over on a sack of Cutler that forced a fumble deep in the Chicago end. The result: touchdown.

The defense was consistently unable to get off the field, allowing the Saints conversions on six of their first 12 third downs and giving up 320 yards through three quarters.

The offense had flashes but had little to offer with any consistency beyond Forte, who had a combined 144 yards (49 rushing, 95 receiving) through three quarters out of the Bears 228 total.

The Bears were unable to protect Cutler adequately against an amped-up pass rush and a myriad of blitz looks, a Saints trademark under coordinator Gregg Williams. He was sacked just once officially through the third quarter but was too often flushed and forced to throw on the run, too often check-downs to Forte.

You know, they just played better than we did, they got a lot of pressure on the quarterback, Smith said. It was a 16-13 game in the third quarter.

Disaster O

The Bears appeared poised to take back some control of a game that had slipped away from them for much of the first half. On their first possession of the third quarter, they drove to the New Orleans 20 with the big play a 30-yard completion to Johnny Knox. The drive stalled at that point as Cutler missed on three straight throws and Gould gave the Bears the first points of the second half with a 38-yard field goal to make the score 16-13.

But after the defense delivered a stop and the offense had the ball back at the Chicago 36, Cutler was sacked from the blind side by defensive end Turk McBride, who easily got around tight end Kellen Davis. McBride blasted the ball loose and it was recovered by linebacker Jonathan Vilma at the Chicago 29.

Two plays later Brees found Robert Meacham for a four-yard touchdown and a 23-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

It worsened to 30-13 when Darren Sproles finished a 14-play, 87-yard drive with a 12-yard TD catch-and-run with 12 minutes to play.
Disaster D

After a deep punt by Adam Podlesh and sack of Brees by Israel Idonije, the Saints faced a third-and-12 from their 21 early in the second quarter. But Brees stepped up in the pocket and saw speedster Devery Henderson bearing down on safety Major Wright, and if Henderson, one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, is even, hes leavin.

Brees hit Henderson in stride and Henderson eluded tackle attempts by Wright and Chris Conte, taking the ball 79 yards for a devastating reversal at a time when the Bears appeared poised to take an upper hand and dial down the effects of mounting crowd noise.

On the third-and-12 its a defense that almost always gets a certain coverage look, said Saints coach Sean Payton. Its one of those third-and-longs that kind of sit in your pocket as a call for it if it comes up, and it came up early.

The score put the Saints up 10-7 and the lead bumped to 13-7 when John Kasay added a 29-yard field goal at the end of another long New Orleans drive. Kasay, looking like anything but a 41-year-old in his 21st NFL season, edged a 53-yarder over the crossbar with just over two minutes to play in the half to give the Saints a 16-7 advantage.

The problem with the steady New Orleans points production was its forcing the Bears into a must-throw deficit in a place where the offensive line struggles for coordination amid the din of the Superdome. It also allowed Brees and the Saints to use all elements of their offense, not simply throw.

A 42-yard field goal by Robbie Gould as time expired in the first half brought the Bears back to 16-10, within one score and still able to utilize both running and passing in the offense.

Without the 79-yard pass, the Bears actually out-gained the Saints in the first half, 165-150. Forte, with 49 rushing yards and 69 receiving, accounted for the bulk of the Chicago offense.
Feeling heat

The Saints brought pressure, as expected, throwing an eight-man front on the first third-and-long and rushed six. The heat got close to Cutler, who was moving outside the pocket frequently on early snaps.

But Forte popped a run around the right end behind solid blocking on the edge and carried 42 yards to set the Bears up with a first down at the New Orleans 45 on the Bears second possession. Cutler avoided the rush long enough to find Forte for 18 yards two plays later.

The Bears finished a dicey, penalty speckled possession with an eight-yard TD pass from Cutler to Dane Sanzenbacher, all alone at the back of the end zone on a well-designed, well-executed pass that exploited the defenses clear plan to get into backfield after Cutler.

The drive consumed 5:29 and gave the Bears a brief, early crowd-quieter.

The Saints answered with a 13-play drive of their own, methodically driving to the Chicago 14 before a third-and-1 pass into the end zone fell incomplete. Kasay, signed after kicker Garrett Hartley was injured in Week 1, converted from 31 yards for a 7-3 mark at the end of the first quarter.

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.

How the Bears' offseason plan will be defined by NFL's CBA negotiations

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USA Today

How the Bears' offseason plan will be defined by NFL's CBA negotiations

The Bears’ offseason will be defined by what happens in the next few days with — and sorry if this seems boring — labor negotiations. Trust us, though: It’s anything but boring. 

You’ve probably seen some of the items included in the collective bargaining agreement the league’s 32 owners ratified this week: Expanded playoffs, a 17th game, no franchise/transition tag, a new structure for fifth-year options, and — most importantly — more money for everyone (even if the owners, who do not play football nor suffer the aftereffects of playing football, have no interest in a 50/50 split of league revenue). 

But here’s where the intrigue lies: The owners want the NFLPA to either ratify or reject their current proposal by “next week,” a vague term clearly referencing the NFL combine. While the 2020 league year does not begin until March 18, the combine is where groundwork gets laid for deals and trades with agents, coaches and front office types all mingling for a few days in downtown Indianapolis (which, by the way, is a lot nicer a place than you may think!). 

And without a clear direction — either moving forward with a new CBA or continuing with the old agreement for one more year — how are football bigwigs supposed to spill secrets when the shrimp cocktails at St. Elmos are traded for real cocktails and then Bud Lights…and more Bud Lights?

(Also, Jerry Jones probably wants to know if he can or cannot use both the franchise and transition tags on Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.)

If the NFLPA ratifies the owners’ proposal, the Bears could get an immediate injection of cap space — the Athletic estimated an extra $5 million — that’d be a significant aid to Ryan Pace’s offseason strategy. 

It’d be interesting to know if the new CBA would affect Mitch Trubisky’s fifth-year option, which right now needs to be picked up or declined by May 2 and is guaranteed for injury only. If the new CBA were applied to Trubisky’s fifth-year option, it would be fully guaranteed, meaning the Bears would be on the hook to pay Trubisky no matter what in 2021 if they were to pick it up. But: the amount they’d pay him would certainly be less than the $24 million-ish he’d be due in the old agreement, because it’d be based on performance and, well, you know. 

But the real chaos — and downside for the Bears — could hit if the NFLPA does not ratify the owners’ proposal. Mike Florio at PFT ran down the impact of this, even if there seems to be a growing perception among some of the league's biggest voices that it's an awful deal for players. 

But playing out one more year under the current CBA, with no guarantee of labor peace and a 17th game, could mean free agents (or those due for extensions, like Allen Robinson) may not be interested in longer-term contracts given the uncertainty of A) the money available to players in the future and B) the 17th game, and what that means for the next round of TV contracts with ludicrous payouts. 

So no new CBA could mean more short-term deals with a high average annual value — the kind of thing a team with about $14 million in cap space can’t afford. The Bears’ best bet in free agency is to backloading three/four/five-year contracts for top players, allowing them to add talent while staying under the cap in 2020. 

To put it less abstractly: What if the Bears trade for Derek Carr (the Instagram post meant something!) but can't sign him to the extension they want, getting his $21.5 million cap hit down in 2020 while locking him up for a few more years after? It'd mean they'd probably have to cut a player or two they were hoping to keep

The coming hours and days are going to be massive in figuring out what direction the Bears can take this offseason. It may not be as interesting as TOM BRADY’S TOUR STOPS AT HALAS HALL but these negotiations will have a profound impact on what sort of roster the Bears field when the 2020 season begins in September. 

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NFL free agency: Making sense of Derek Carr's Instagram of Khalil Mack

NFL free agency: Making sense of Derek Carr's Instagram of Khalil Mack

There's smoke here, and Derek Carr is coming to the Bears, right?

You might want to believe that if you, the Bears fan who’s given up on Mitch Trubisky, reads into Carr's caption-free Thursday Instagram post. The photo was of Carr, who’s still employed by the Raiders, with his good friend Khalil Mack. 

Couple Carr’s confusingly-similar-named brother, David, posting a hashtag (#megaPowers) on it, and the inference is crystal-clear, right? This can only mean one thing: Carr will quarterback the Bears in 2020.

That’s the good stuff. 

Welcome to the silliness of NFL free agency, where Stefon Diggs deleting photos of him in a Minnesota Vikings uniform means the moody receiver definitely wants to be traded (that happened with Jordan Howard two years ago and…Howard was not traded in 2018’s offseason).

Know how to interpret a single emoji in a tweet from an impending free agent or disgruntled star? Congrats! You're qualified to be an NFL insider.

Now: Carr posting a photo with one of his closest buddies means he very well could want a reunion with Mack in Chicago. 

Nevermind the minor details of Carr 1) Still being on a Raiders team that doesn’t currently have his replacement on the roster, and won’t until mid-March at the earliest, 2) carrying a $21.5 million cap hit in 2020, about $7 million more than the Bears’ available salary cap and 3) not having any control over where he’d go if the Raiders were to trade him.

Maybe Carr found a picture of him and his best friend and posted it for no other reason than it was a good photo, as those of us on Instagram often do. 

More important: The Bears look unlikely to make a splash move at quarterback if you follow the money. Carr is too expensive to trade for while also successfully filling red-line needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety. 

Or maybe there is smoke here, and the Raiders have made it clear to Carr they’re going to explore the quarterback market — maybe with Cam Newton, maybe with Tom Brady — and he’s starting to agitate for a trade to Chicago. Maybe the Bears are back-channeling some discussions to make sure they’re at the front of Mike Mayock’s mind when he tries to find a landing spot for Carr in the event he and Jon Gruden lure Brady to Las Vegas. The Bears, theoretically, could trade for Carr and sign him to an extension that makes his 2020 cap hit more palatable. 

You can see why the Bears might want Carr, who's had success in the past, is cheap relative to other starting quarterbacks and could be viewed as this franchise's version of Alex Smith. But that’s a long way off.  

And it’s not unprecedented for a vague Instagram post to portend the future. Remember when Allen Robinson posted a photo of him in a Cubs jersey a month before signing in Chicago?

Or, another possibility, and this tracks the most: Maybe Carr is just messing with everyone, knowing his name has been mentioned by the media as a potential trade target. 

As Instagram user angel.et.03 so elegantly put it in a comment on the post: “Carr just f***ing with us at this point.”

Good on Carr if he is, since he certainly succeeded.

Then again: Of the 70,000+ likes the photo has, one of them is from the user “fiftydeuce,” — Mack himself.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.