After a rousing Week 1 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears headed down to the Superdome in New Orleans to battle the Saints in another NFC South matchup. All of the confidence they brought with them south of the Mason-Dixon line didn’t mean diddly squat, however, as the Saints picked apart the Bears’ weakened secondary and sacked Jay Cutler six times en route to a 30-13 victory.
The Bears offense looked largely ineffective against a Saints defense that looked woefully inadequate against the Packers last week, and were also missing a key component in Tracy Porter from their secondary. Even with those things in mind, the Bears still only managed to gain 246 yards of offense, and other than their early touchdown score by Dane Sanzenbacher, they were inept all afternoon.
Outside of those woeful facts, what else did we learn about the Chicago Bears in Week 2? Here are five things to keep in mind as they prepare to greet the defending world champion Packers to Soldier Field next week:
One: The Bears’ Offensive Line Is Who We Thought They Were!
Last week against the Falcons, the Bears may have given up five sacks, but their offensive line largely gave Cutler enough of an opportunity to make plays, and they also cleared out plenty of room for Matt Forte to make plays on the ground as well. Sunday, however, the Bears line looked completely out of sorts, allowing six sacks and letting Cutler get absolutely destroyed by the Saints’ ferocious pass rush.
It didn’t help matters that rookie Gabe Carimi got injured early in the game, but what also didn’t help was that tight end Kellen Davis and right tackle Frank Omiyale were essentially revolving doors for New Orleans’ linemen all day long. In fact, the best protection job that Omiyale did the entire game was picking a Saints rusher off of Cutler after a sack and starting a fight with him. The sight of those two chasing guys who had gotten around them was a common one on Sunday, and Cutler was visibly frustrated by the lack of time he was getting in the pocket.
What was disturbing about this contest wasn’t that the linemen weren’t picking up their blocks properly, but instead was that the Saints had so much faith in stopping Cutler late in the game that they kept rushing safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper and allowing their corners and linebackers to cover the Bears’ receivers (which we will cover later). If the Bears can’t even give Cutler enough time to even find an open receiver with both safeties rushing him, then there is a huge problem in Chicago that needs to be addressed immediately.
Two: Is Chris Harris Really That Integral To This Secondary?
Speaking of secondaries, the Bears’ play in that area today was abysmal. Having safety Chris Harris out of the lineup with a leg injury didn’t help things against a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback in Drew Brees, but even still the Bears looked completely outmatched even in the most basic of situations.
Devery Henderson caught a deep touchdown in the second quarter in which nearly every member of the Bears’ secondary failed in their assignments. Receivers didn’t get jammed at the line of scrimmage, and safeties Major Wright and Brandon Merriweather ended up getting burned by Henderson on the play.
Making matters worse, the play occurred on a 3rd and 12 play when pretty much everyone in the stadium (with the exception of vendors with their backs turned to the field) knew that Brees was going to try to go deep, and yet the Bears’ coverage completely broke down in that situation.
As if the crap sandwich of a day wasn’t bad enough, the Bears lost Wright to an injury as well when he decided it was a good idea to try to tackle Jimmy Graham, who happens to be a very large man, with his head. That didn’t end well for him, as he left the game with a head injury and got an earful from Graham, who took every opportunity that he could to trash talk to the Bears.
Overall, there’s only one question that pops up when thinking about the secondary: is Chris Harris really that big of a difference maker?
Three: Did the Bears’ Receivers Give Up Late in the Game?
We’ve already discussed how badly the Bears’ offensive line played, especially in the late stages of this game, but was there more of a reason for it besides the ineptitude of guys like Omiyale and Chris Williams? The answer to that question could very well be a yes. As was pointed out on the broadcast by Troy Aikman, the Bears’ receivers weren’t able to get open against their cornerbacks, so even if Cutler had time to throw, he wasn’t able to find anyone that was open.
Devin Hester especially looked like he slowed down late in the game as the Bears continued to struggle, and Johnny Knox appeared to take a couple of plays off as well. It’s obviously difficult to see on TV whether or not receivers are fully running out their routes, but from a couple of brief clips seen of the two receivers, they didn’t appear to be fully committed to their routes, and that could explain some of Jay’s frustration.
Four: On a Scale of 1 to 10, How Bad Was the Officiating?
Normally we try to stay away from complaints about the officiating in games, but the crew that worked today’s game was so horribly bad to both teams that they have to be called out.
There are three incidents in particular that warrant attention. Harper, who had already sent Earl Bennett to the sidelines with an upper-body injury, was flagged for a roughing the passer play on which he hit Cutler in the backfield and tackled him to the ground. He literally hit Cutler as he was throwing the ball, but appeared to be flagged because he landed with his entire weight on Cutler when he hit him. It was a rotten call, and even Bears fans were bemoaning the lengths to which officials were going to protect the quarterback.
The second incident involved another Saints safety, as Jenkins nailed Dane Sanzenbacher over the middle after the ball had already passed the Bears’ receiver. The play should have been flagged for Jenkins hitting a defenseless receiver, and he also could have been flagged for leading with the crown of his helmet. The idea that the play wasn’t illegal was laughable, and the officials should have been ashamed of themselves for not tossing out the yellow hankies, especially in light of the soft call they made on the Cutler hit.
The final call was one that actually wasn’t made, and it occurred when Saints running back Darren Sproles scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. On the play, he caught a pass, and ran along the sidelines and appeared to step out of bounds at the two yard line. Replay officials this year are reviewing all scoring plays, as we’ve been told countless times in the early going this season, but they apparently either didn’t review or didn’t call for a review of the play, because the officials let play proceed. The question here obviously is this: if the replay officials are going to miss a blatantly obvious call like this one, why on Earth should every play be reviewed? It’s a waste of time if that’s going to be the case, and all of the men in stripes and in the replay booth should be ashamed of themselves for their awful performances today.
Five: Big Question: Is This a Sign of Things to Come For the Bears?
The Bears obviously looked very bad on Sunday, but will this be a continuing trend for them? Obviously they won’t be facing a defense like New Orleans’ every week, but with teams like Green Bay and Detroit residing in the NFC North, and with other big matchups looming on their schedule, things could get very ugly for the Bears in the near future.
One thing that they do have working in their favor is that offensive coordinator Mike Martz showed last year that he can adapt his offense to suit Cutler’s needs. After Cutler took a beating against the Giants last season, he started calling fewer complicated plays than he had early in the season, and the streamlined offense enabled the Bears to make it all the way to the NFC Championship game. There’s no telling this year whether or not Martz will be willing to help Cutler out like that again, but one thing is for certain: he’s going to have to make lemonade out of the crap that some of his linemen are giving him this year, and that might be a bigger miracle than anyone would care to admit.
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