|National Football League|
Bears hope offense catches up in game vs. Saints
NEW ORLEANS -- From an offensive perspective, Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears might easily be billed as Star Wars vs. Stonehenge.
The 4-2 Saints have won four consecutive games for the first time since 2013, placing them atop the NFC South, and they have done it with textbook, run-pass balance on offense and a young, opportunistic defense rankled by being ridiculed for the last three seasons as the team's collective ball-and-chain.
The 3-4 Bears have won back-to-back games relying on a suffocating defense, but their offense seems like a throwback to the black-and-white newsreels of the 1940s -- if only the forward pass were involved.
In beating the Carolina Panthers 17-3 last week, the Bears scored both touchdowns on defense -- an interception and a fumble return -- and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed just four passes while throwing only seven times.
The Bears ran 37 plays against Carolina and accounted for a mere five first downs and 153 yards of total offense. Trubisky, 2-1 as a starter, is the first NFL quarterback to win a game completing fewer than five passes since Tim Tebow went 2 of 8 in a 17-10 victory over Kansas City in 2011.
Bears coach John Fox just so happened to be the head coach in both of those offensively challenged victories. Fox said his players are just happy to get wins any way they can.
"You hope that they're not thinking about their own personal stats or 'one side of the ball didn't do this or did that,' because it changes. Every one of these (games) is different. There'll be a day where it will be the other way, and I wouldn't expect the other side to look at it sideways."
Trubisky said he intended to spend even more time this week with the playbook and working in practice against high-volume, piped-in music to help him get accustomed the loud Mercedes-Benz Superdome venue. He said the Bears would use mostly silent counts.
"My confidence is fine," Trubisky said. "Winning is the most important thing. I don't care if I throw zero passes as long as the Chicago Bears are winning. I mean, we're doing something right."
Saints coach Sean Payton said he was impressed with a throw on a crossing route Trubisky made in a 27-24 overtime win against Baltimore two weeks ago. Trubisky completed only eight passes in that game.
"He's someone we liked coming out," Payton said. "You see the athleticism. He does a great job throwing on the run. ... I think he has that moxie. I think he's one of the rising stars, younger players that we're going to see a lot of good things from."
Trubisky will be matching skills with Drew Brees, who has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a season five times. Brees understands the Bears have pressured the quarterback and stuffed the run, and he touted the Chicago secondary for its playmaking ability, especially safety Eddie Jackson for his two defensive touchdowns against Carolina last week.
"Those are game-changers," Brees said. "The week before in Baltimore, the other safety made a similar play on a deflected ball, where it looks like a punt returner, returning it about 90 yards for a touchdown. They are playing with high energy."
Brees went the first four games of the season without an interception, but he threw two in the first half last week against Green Bay before settling down and leading the Saints to scores on their first four possessions of the second half. The Saints ran the ball effectively (35 carries, 161 yards), and Brees threw 38 times for 324 yards, the kind of balance Payton dreams of.
"It is a good feeling to know you can run the ball effectively, that you have a pair of backs (Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara) that do a good job both in the base run and the sub-run game," Brees said. "It just gives us a ton of flexibility."
Another Saints' rookie besides Kamara who has made waves is cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the No. 11 overall draft pick, who has covered well and last week cut down a Green Bay screen before it got started.
"I think he's a tackler, he competes," Payton said. "I like his length. I think he can run and mirror."
The Saints held three players out of practice on Wednesday: receiver Michael Thomas (knee), tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) and guard Larry Warford (abdomen). Warford is expected to miss Sunday's game.
The Bears held out five players from practice: corner Sherrick McManis (hamstring), linebacker John Timu (ankle/knee), receiver Markus Wheaton (groin), guard Kyle Long (ankle) and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (hamstring). Long had offseason surgery on his ankle.
Updated October 26, 2017