Jay Cutler’s Value to the Bears

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times writes this mea culpa. But it could have just as easily been me writing it:

“When Jay Cutler was injured in 2011, I made a tremendous blunder in predicting that Caleb Hanie would thrive in his place. While Cutler had led the Bears to five consecutive victories, his performances were hardly off-the-charts. He was replaceable.

“I couldn’t have been more wrong. Hanie was more awful than the harshest critic could have predicted.”

“Two years later, we have another chance to measure Cutler’s value to the Bears. Short of a 158.3 passer rating, 40-plus points per game and five or more consecutive victories, there’s nothing Josh McCown can do to create a quarterback controversy when (if?) Cutler returns. But Cutler’s absence — and McCown’s impressive performance Sunday in relief against the Redskins — gives the Bears a chance to see just how badly they need their franchise quarterback.”

I never thought Cutler was “replaceable” with Hanie. And, in fact, I did express some reservations about him. But I certainly did think Hanie would do better than he did. It’s possible I’m being fooled twice here but I don’t think there’s much risk in saying that McCown will be better than Hanie was.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how McCown does against a good team with a full week to prepare for him. But either way, I agree with Potash in that I doubt anyone whose opinion counts is thinking he’ll “replace” Cutler. They might try to find someone else to do it. But it won’t be McCown, who is a temporary fill in for either Cutler or the new guy at best.

I think this question from Potash is the one I’d really like an answer to:

“And while it was overshadowed by his injury, Cutler’s performance against the Redskins was a disappointment. With nine days between games, Cutler either was rusty or ineffective. Against a defense ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass, Cutler was 3-for-8 for 28 yards and an interception returned for a touchdown for an 8.3 passer rating. The rest of the league has a composite 104.5 passer rating against the Redskins in the first half this season. Why him? Why then?”

Cutler looked an awful lot like the quarterback that collapsed against really good teams on more than one past occasion until he got hurt Sunday. I said in my Game Comments that he didn’t look like he wanted to be out there. I stand by that. It was very disturbing and the Bears can’t afford to sign a quarterback long term who is going to perform like that, even occasionally, when they need him most. Perhaps Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune put it best:

“Now the Bears will take this week off and apparently vote whether they want to play the Packers a week from Monday. Interestingly, if you had to vote on which game Cutler should miss for any reason, it would be the Packers. Always the Packers. So, the Bears have that going for them. I mean, nobody on the Packers defense ever said something like ‘just sit there and Josh will throw you the ball.'”

Up until last Sunday, I thought the Bears would re-sign Cutler in the offseason without question. But after only a few possessions in the first and second quarter last Sunday, I’m already very much doubting that assessment. I’d really like to know what causes Cutler to occasionally go into a mental shell like that and whether head coach Marc Trestman can do anything to prevent it. If he can’t, then they need to cut Cutler loose.

Cutler is very valuable to the Bears. Which may be why they’ll eventually need to let go of him.

Response to Injuries: Coach ’em Up

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman on the Bears response to the rash of injuries to veterans that is now plaguing the team:

“‘It really comes down to fundamentals and techniques,’ Trestman said. ‘Not an improvement in scheme. Not an improvement in structure. Just being in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing with the fundamentals that we’ve been taught.’

“‘We need to improve our assignments, our discipline and our fundamentals,’ general manager Phil Emery said. ‘If we do those things, we’ll play better defense. We’ll rush the passer better. We’ll have more stops.'”

But it’s the Chicago Tribune‘s David Haugh that puts his finger right on the most important point.

“Despite losing five starters to injuries, Trestman and Emery offered no excuses because they know injury-riddled teams such as the Packers and Patriots win anyway. But they didn’t offer compelling evidence to believe the optimism they tried selling about a team likely to start four rookies against the Packers.”

The first part of the quote is the point. One thing that former head coach Lovie Smith had right was that injuries are not an excuse. The current Bears bras seems to agree (via Rick Morrissey at the Sun-Times):

“I started to ask him the obvious question but ended up making the obvious statement: Coach, I know you said you liked your team’s attitude in the locker room, but with all due respect, you don’t have much of a team without Cutler and Briggs.

‘‘’I think we do have a team,’’ he said. ‘‘I beg to differ with you. You’re entitled to your opinion, but these things are going on throughout the National Football League. Good players are going down throughout.'”

Good teams perform in spite of injuries and there are good examples of Packers teams that have done so. These teams didn’t run out and panic and trade draft picks for immediate help and the Bears aren’t going to do it either. Consistent with that, as pointed out by Adam L. Jahns at the Sun-Times, Emery is having a hard time getting a trade lined up where there’s equal value on both sides.

“[Emery] stressed that ‘trades aren’t dependent on injury perspective.'”

“‘The most limiting factor is getting equal value,’ he said. ‘When you don’t get equal value, you can put the team in a position, short- and long-term, of not being where you want to be roster-wise.

“‘If we find one that .?.?. works to our benefit at positions of needs that I think are obvious in terms of the attrition that we’ve had, we would make that trade.'”

I’d say that the Bears are unlikely to trade draft picks unless they are getting good young talent in return and, if its good young talent, no one will be trading it.

Nevertheless, the Bears might yet find a young player with talent who has busted out with another team for a low round pick. And they might find some help in the existing free agent market. But the key to fighting through adversity is really with hard work and, perhaps most important, good coaching. As with most things in life, mediocre players with good fundamentals can go pretty far. It’s particularly true in the NFL because the mediocre players are still pretty talented.

People like Haugh who are looking for “compelling evidence” that the Bears will do what other good teams have done in the past by coaching back ups to perform at a high level aren’t going to find a lot, its true. Such things don’t show themselves until after the fact and Trestman’s coaching staff is in its first year. But I’d say that new defensive tackle Landon Cohen and defensive end David Bass already started to emerge against the Redskins. For those who are looking for more, this is the chance for the team, coaches and players, to show what it can do. The Bears seem to be embracing the opportunity (again via Morrissey):

“‘There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about coming back here next week and cleaning up the things that we can get better at,’ [Trestman] said. ‘We get the opportunity to go to Lambeau Field. We know it’s going to be for a first-place position in our [division], regardless of what happens this weekend. Our guys should be excited about that and I believe they will [be].'”

Truth be told, so will I.

Game Comments – Bears at Redskins 10/20/13


  1. The Redskins came out in running formations and everything was based around that.  They packed into the middle with two running backs and Robert Griffin III and ran variations in the running game with play actin pass.  The Bears responded by putting eight in the box and playing the run first.  The Redskins responded by doing a lot of passing out of the formation.  The Bears did briefly go to seven in the box late in the first quarter but the Redskins ran over them and they went back to eight.
  2. The Redskins came out ready to play on offense  I’m not sure the Bears defense was as ready to play mentally.  They looked a step slow during the first drive.
  3. RG III is a serious problem on the ground.  I loved the plays where the Redskins run everyone one direction, then RGII keeps the ball and goes the other running in a wide open field as the defense has to defend the run the other way.  He also passed effectively out of this play.
  4. Give the Redskins credit.  They executed well on offense dominating time of possession in the first half.  They ran the ball really well.  The Bears caught them on a good day.
  5. The Bears seemed to me to be blitzing pretty frequently.   This would make sense as the Redskins have had trouble agains the blitz this year.  Unfortunately it didn’t work very well this week.  RGII must have been working on it.
  6. Lance Briggs had a good game, as usual.  It was a shame to see him leave with an injury.  I though Landon Cohen showed up.
  7. Chris Conte definitely did not have a good game.  I’m not too sure Conte had his head in the game today.  He made costly mistakes all over the field in coverage that directly cost the Bears at least 14 points.
  8. I like Jon Bostic’s aggressiveness.  I’m not sayin ghe was perfect but when he makes a play, he makes a play.  He’s all out.
  9. The Bears tackling looked better to my eye today.  But they had a tough time getting the opponent off the field on third down, though.  They made Jordan Reed look like Tony Gonzalez out there.  They definitely did have some execution problems though and the Redskins took full advantage, especially in the running game.
  10. Its a little tough to talk about the pass rush when RGIII spent so much time outside of the pocket.  But there wasn’t a lot of it, blitz or no blitz.  RGIII looked mighty comfortable out there for most of the game.


  1. The Redskins came out and crowded the line a bit.  It looked like maybe they were trying to play aggressive and confuse the Bears to keep them off balance.
  2. Quarterback Jay Cutler’s plan was simple.  Put Brandon Marshall in single coverage with Brandon Marshall against DeAngelo Hall, he’s throwing to Marshall.  Hall got the better of the matchup in the first half.
  3. Cutler was definitely off in the first half passing-wise.  He was pretty inconsistent with his accuracy and he definitely never looked comfortable.  Sometimes Cutler has this look about him that gives you the distinct impression that that he doesn’t really want to be out there.  For the first time this year, he had it.
  4. Josh McCown initially looked totally lost upon taking over for Cutler.  It was a bad sign.  McCown did OK getting outside the pocket but apparently the targets to throw to weren’t there.  You don’t want Josh McCown accounting for a significant portion of your running game on scrambles and broken plays.
  5. On a related note, what a disappointing game from Alshon Jeffery who was pretty much wandering around aimlessly out there in the first half into the third quarter.  No sharp routes.  Really no good timing in the passing game from him or anyone else on the offense for long periods of the game.  In fairness, Jeffery and the rest of the passing offense did wake up late in the third quarter.
  6. On the other hand the end around to Jeffery continues to pick up yardage.
  7. Thank goodness for Matt Forte who apparently came to play.  It was nice to see Earl Bennett come alive.
  8. For all of the talk about the size advantage that Martellus Bennett had on linebacker London Fletcher, the Bears sure failed to take advantage of it.


  1. Once again the Bears drew a pretty good broadcast crew today.  Tony Siragusa, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston did their usual nice job.  I loved the way that Johnston broke down the Devin Hester touchdown return, showing how the Bears set up their blockers for the return to the right, eventually forming picket fence down which Hester waltzed.
  2. Special teams for the Bears were up and down.  Most importantly, they came through with a well blocked touchdown for Hester.  Coverage teams did reasonably well.  Adam Podlesh had a good day.  The offense saw good field position all day as the Redskins kicked short to keep the ball away from Hester.  The Dvin Hester pass on the last kickoff return was amusing.  On the other hand, the Bears sure could have used that missed 34 yard field goal from Robbie Gould in the third quarter.  Hester seemed to be dancing around an awful lot on one or two of his other returns where He probably should have simply headed straight up the field.
  3. Charles Tillman got an interception.
  4. There were some costly Bears penalties.  There was a holding call on a punt in the first quarter that moved the Bears from the redskins 30 to the 40.  Landen Cohen had an illegal hands to the face that gave the Redskins a first down.  There was a defensive holding as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter.  And, of course, there was the crushing offside penalty on Eric Weems on what should have been a Bears recovery on an offside kick.  And a stupid illegal formation penalty took away a touchdown pass.  Pretty sloppy.  The Bears just can’t afford to do this stuff.  For the Redskins, Brandon Meriweather was a personal foul machine.  I’m thinking he might be on his way to a well-deserved  suspension.
  5. Alshon Jeffery had a bobble that was eventually returned for a pick six.  Brandon Marshall had a bad drop in the second half.  The Redskins also had their share of trouble with a few of RGIII’s passes which were occasionally behind the receiver.
  6. You could tell that the Redskins really needed this game and I thought they played today with an attitude.  The Bears definitely did not.  They came out totally flat after getting a 10 day break.  They were a step slow all over the field and Cutler wasn’t the only one who didn’t exactly look like he wanted to be out there.  They are now heading into their bye week which means an even longer period of time off.  Here’s hoping they come back more ready to play after two weeks off than they did today.

Bears Will Be Facing More Eight Man Fronts

Tom Thayer at chicagobears.com explains the role of fullback Tony Fiammetta in running against an eight man front.

Thayer mentions several times that the Bears will be facing eight men in the box for much of the rest of the season but he doesn’t mention why. It’s a result of the fact that the Bears play a great deal of max protect in order to keep Jay Cutler clean in the pocket. For instance, notice in the screenshot above that the Bears have a tight end and two running backs in the game. This limits the passing options and leads the defense to bring an extra man closer to the line of scrimmage in order to either stop the run or to provide an extra pass rusher through the blitz.

The Bears ability to counter this depends upon good run blocking and the use of both Matt Forte and the tight ends, particularly Martellus Bennett, in the passing game. Fortunately both are excellent, versatile receivers as well as good blockers.

As much attention as is paid to receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, it’s Forte and Bennett who will play the greater role in determining how the offense runs through most of the rest of the season.

Trending Up. Trending Down.

Mark Potash‘s column in the Chicago Sun-Times this morning was a study in contrasts. He first addresses wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, a now rapidly improving player in the Bears offense:

“Wide receiver Alshon’s Jeffery’s 15-yard gain on an end around gave him three of the Bears’ seven longest runs from scrimmage this season. Jeffery also had a 38-yard gain against the Vikings and a 27-yard again against the Lions.”

Jeffery is turning into a potent weapon in the right hands. Those end arounds take a little while to develop but they work against particularly aggressive defenses with players who get caught away from home as they flow with the ball.

Potash, in the same column, also addressed the struggles of defensive end Shea McClelin:

It’s possible Shea McClellin still could become a force as a 4-3 defensive end, but it’s a long shot. Twenty games might seem like too few to make a judgment, but history says you usually know by now.

McClellin and Jeffery were a particularly big roll of the dice for the Bears. General Manager Phil Emery‘s first two picks in the 2012 draft both had one thing in common – their bodies were under-developed. Emery, a former strength and conditioning coach, obviously felt that with the right weight training, both players would develop into their roles. With Jeffery it worked. He’s out muscling defensive backs and, thanks to some good coaching from the Bears staff and some good training with Brandon Marshall, he using leverage to create space and get open.

The Bears haven’t been as lucky with McClellin. His speed is evident to anyone with eyes and he turns the corner on an edge rush as fast as anyone you’ll see. But he just isn’t strong enough to move solid offensive tackles and he doesn’t have the upper body strength needed to hold against the run or to use his hands to create the needed space to work his moves effectively in most passing situations.

Yes, its true. He might still develop and we might not have seen the best McClellin has to offer yet. But Potash is probably right. Just as we’ve seen Jeffery blossom with increased strength and experience, we aren’t seeing the same progress in McClellin. That’s unfortunate because the Bears need him badly with Corey Wooton having moved, at least temporarily, to defensive tackle and with Julius Peppers in a bad slump.

I noted last summer that the development of Emery’s 2012 picks would likely be the key to the 2013 season That has turned out to be the case. As Potash notes, with the Bears beat up on the defensive side of the ball, it’s the offense that has to pick up a bigger part of the burden in the coming weeks. In the same vein, we can only hope that Emery’s apparent success in projecting the development of Jeffery will off set the apparent mistake with projection of McClellin.

The Rise of the Tight End

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Is the rise of tight ends like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski the response to the Cover-2 defense? @santucci_john from Twitter

“Offenses are doing their best to spread defenses out and attack the middle of the field with prolific pass-catching tight ends to respond to the blitzes that they face. Instead of leaving more players in to block, offenses are sending more out in the pattern to challenge defenses. A big, mobile tight end is an easy target for the quarterback to find on a quick read and a challenge for the defense to defend with a safety or a linebacker. Really, I believe the rise of the tight end position in the passing game is in response to the complex blitz packages that have developed.”

This is a wonderful perspective that I hadn’t thought of. I might add that it doesn’t hurt that a good blocking tight end can help with the running game or with pass protections is situations like this. Both are reasonable responses to the blitz depending upon what is called. And, of course, if you find a good one he’s a matchup nightmare being too athletic for a linebacker and too big for a safety or cornerback. But I like Biggs’s reason the best and it makes a lot of sense.

I’m not too judgmental but there’s no denying that a lot of questions from readers that get published in these columns that are just plain dumb. Despite that, its questions and thoughtful answers like this that keep me reading.

Quick Game Comments – Giants at Bears 10/10/13


  1. The Bears came out mixing their defense up quite a bit nothing too fancy but it didn’t look like there was any one form that they stuck to initially. Perhaps they were trying to confuse the Giants offense and keep them off balance by simply showing different things. It seemed to work.
  2. There was a lot of cover two later in the game. The Giants did a good job against it with some classic cover two beaters.
  3. The Bears blitz quite a bit to get pressure. The front four alone wasn’t getting much pressure.
  4. The Giants decided (correctly) that they could run the ball successfully as a response to what the Bears were doing. The Bears flat out refused to bring an eighth guy into the box.
  5. The poor tackling reared its ugly head again tonight. The Giants ran right through some for some long gains.
  6. The Giants are a pretty talented team but there were a surprising number of mental errors out there on their part. The Bears took advantage.
  7. Major Wright was not good tonight. The Giants did a good job of take advantage of him.


  1. The Giants seemed to be playing a lot of cover two. Like the Bears, they also blitzed quite a bit.
  2. Despite wanting to get a fast start, the Bears once again spluttered on the first series wasting a golden opportunity as they failed to take advantage of a turnover deep in Giants territory.
  3. Unlike the Giants, the Bears had a tough time running the ball at the beginning of the game. Things loosened up a bit in the second quarter.
  4. Brandon Marshall was a happy man tonight as the Bears were able to go to him more against a zone defense with some good results. I loved the way he shoved the cornerback four yards off the line of scrimmage past the goal line to create space for a touchdown pass in the second quarter. The commoner complained but it looked clean.
  5. Quarterback Jay Cutler used his mobility well tonight. He also showed more than his usual degree of willingness to throw the ball away to avoid problems.
  6. Cutler got good protection.
  7. Like the Giants offense, their defense suffered from a lot of mental mistakes. That’s not like past years.
  8. Cutler didn’t have a bad night but he missed Alshon Jeffery on a couple long throws that could have been big plays.


  1. To the surprise of no one who thinks I’m too easy on the announcers, I like Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock. I think Mayock does a good job of diagraming out plays and immediately telling you exactly what happened.
  2. There were many drops on either side. Marshall drop on fourth down in the first quarter. Other than that, both sides were pretty clean.
  3. Turnovers were, as usual, a major factor in this game with the Bears getting all of them. The Bears got two turnovers early with an interception by Zack Bowman early in the first quarter followed a pick six by Tim Jennings. Jennings had the final major interception with 2 minutes left in the game.
  4. Both teams had too many penalties. The holding penalty against the Giants defense with about a minute and a half left in the game was a killer.
  5. Special teams were unremarkable except for the long kick return by the Giants in the second quarter. There was a time when the Bears made a living off of big special teams plays. No more.
  6. I thought the Bears played a decent game tonight. The offense looked good against a largely zone team and the protection for Jay Cutler was pretty good. The defense was fine but I’m a mildly worried about the tackling again. They weren’t great against the run. Honestly, I found the Giants to be the more interesting team. I thought they might well have been the more talented team but major mental errors on both sides of the ball killed them. You can see why they’re 0-6. This is a reasonably talented team that’s playing really poorly and you have to wonder if it doesn’t reflect on the coaching staff.

Game Comments: Saints at Bears 10/6/13


  1. The Saints came out in a standard looking 4-3. The game plan was apparently to keep the Bears off balance with some well-timed blitzes. The Bears tried to counter by running the ball. Unfortunately it didn’t work early as the Bears found themselves continually in situations where they had to pass. They spent the first quarter looking discombobulated.
  2. Jay Cutler’s first fumble was a big part of the miserable start for the offense. Rob Ryan sent an overload blitz from the left side. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod correctly blocked the inside man and let the outside man go free. It was up to Cutler to get rid of the ball and possibly one of the receivers to adjust his route. Unfortunately Jay Cutler never saw the blitzer so we’ll never know if the receiver adjusted. It looked to me like the wide receiver didn’t adjust on the first sack of the second quarter where the same thing happened.
  3. It wasn’t just Cutler. The offensive line had its hands full again this week. It looked like they had a tough time dealing with the speed of the Saints defensive ends in the 4-3 even without the blitz.
  4. The key to the Saints defense wasn’t just the blitzes. They really had a tough time running the ball. It’s no coincidence that the Bears scored their touchdown in the second quarter after executing some nice running plays with both Matt Forte and Michael Bush and that they moved the ball a lot better after that. Unfortunately they were behind and the Saints had some sustained drives that ate up too much time in the second half to allow them to come back.
  5. I would also note that the Bears started to attack the edges with the run in the second quarter. They did this briefly against the Lions with some success but then abandoned it for some reason. They kept bringing it back on occasion today, again with some success.
  6. I note once again that the Bears went to an unbalanced line with Ebon Britton in as an extra tackle, presumable to help the running game and as extra protection for the pass.
  7. I also note that the Saints started to give Alshon Jeffery some extra attention in the second half. We may start seeing more of that in the future.


  1. The Bears were playing man-to-man underneath on first down. This was apparently an effort to try to force the Saints to go deep with the ball. Interestingly they still kept it short until midway through the second quarter when the finally started to burn the Bears defense with Jimmy Graham.
  2. The Bears tackling seemed to be much better this week.
  3. The pass rush also seemed much better in the first quarter, then not so much the rest of the game. There wasn’t much blitzing in the first half and only a little more in the second. There was some pressure but it seemed that quarterback Drew Brees had a long time to throw at times. Nice to see Nate Collins show up with a sack. It was a shame to see him go into the dressing room injured. Shea McClellin seemed to be around Brees a lot, especially in the first half. Unfortunately the lack of a pass rush in the second quarter allowed the Saints to start to beat the Bears with longer passes.
  4. Lance Briggs looked better this week after a lousy game against the Lions as he showed up all over the field. Nice to see him back. Too bad about the late offsides penalty which really marred the effort. Really, all of the linebackers showed up today.
  5. I was a little disappointed that the Bears didn’t do a better job of stopping the run. The Saints actually got a little play action going as linebacker D.J. Williams had a tough time getting back into coverage in the cover two. This was not a good running team and they had too mush success.
  6. It appeared to me like the Bears kept the Saints in third and long more often than they have with other teams they’ve played. As a result they were doing a good job of stopping them at those times.
  7. Even though there weren’t a lot of points scored, I thought the defense allowed the Saints to sustain some long drives in the second half that ate up the clock. They needed to get them off the field.


  1. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were sharp. I thought Aikman was particularly on his game making subtle comments. One such fact that he pointed out was that Alshon Jeffery wasn’t the first read on his touchdown in the second quarter. Cutler was looking for the inside receiver on the play but went to Jeffery when he popped open. The FOX crew got a good shot of Cutler in the first half going through his reads before finally throwing the ball to the third one against tight coverage. They also got a great shot of Pierre Thomas’s touchdown near the end of the first half. The receivers cleared the linebackers out and there was no one left on the offensive left side to stop him. It was superb coverage.
  2. There was a lot of slipping around out there by the Saints. Not so much by the Bears. You have to wonder if they had the wrong size cleats on. I would have expected sideline reporter Pam Oliver to ask about this.
  3. The Saints played a pretty clean game penalty-wise. I thought the Bears had far too many. Eric Weems had what was apparently a dumb personal foul call in the second quarter. D.J. Williams got called for a horse collar tackle that I’m not sure wasn’t bogus. I thought his hand was on the top of the shoulder pads. Charles Tillman had a holding penalty near the end of the third quarter on the disorganized punt return mentioned below. Lance Briggs had an awful offsides penalty on a fourth down in the fourth quarter that kept a Saints drive going with about 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Corey Wooton had another on eon the same drive.
  4. Special teams were not remarkable except for the disorganized manner in which they received a punt near the end of the third quarter. There was some of this last week as well. There’s no excuse for that and it needs to be cleaned up.
  5. Again, the Saints were pretty clean. Kenny Stills had a bad drop in the fourth quarter. Once again, as last week, I thought the Bears were a loose with the drops. This is not a team like the Packers that can be dropping balls. Matt Forte came out unsteady by bobbling the ball a couple times. He also had a drop in the second quarter along with Dante Rosario. Earl Bennett had a killer drop in the fourth quarter on a fourth and three.
  6. The Bears got no turnovers. They gave one which handed the Saints a field goal.
  7. The defense cleaned up a lot of problems compared to last week. The tackling was much better and it looked to me like players were generally in their gaps. But I was really disappointed in the way the offense came out today. After a lot of real progress which showed their talent at the skill positions I thought they took a step back the last two weeks. The offensive line hasn’t looked strong and the unit looked out of sync. It looked like they were a step slow all day. It may be like this for a while – two steps forward, one step back. We’ll just have to be comforted by the fact that the arrow is pointing up and they’ll come out better for having missed some plays today.

Saints Might Be What Struggling Bears Defensive Line Needs

I haven’t been looking forward to this match up with the high octane Saints offense this week. But Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune is doing his best to give me and people like me a little hope:

“There is an Achilles’ heel in the New Orleans offense and it’s a sputtering running game that currently ranks 25th in the NFL, averaging 81.2 yards per game.”

“The Saints’ offensive line isn’t as sturdy as it has been in recent years. With left tackle Jermon Bushrod skipping town last spring and signing with the Bears, Charles Brown (a 2010 second-round pick) is now the man protecting Brees’ blindside. Standout right guard Jahri Evans has been dealing with a hamstring injury in recent weeks, missed the Week 3 win over Arizona and just hasn’t been himself early on.

“Currently, [quarterback Drew] Brees is on pace to be sacked 48 times this season. In seven previous seasons with the Saints, he’s never been sacked more than 26 times. And that was last season.”

Rich Campbell, also at the Tribune, more or less confirms that the Saints offensive line has some flaws that the Bears plan to exploit:

“Regardless of personnel [on the Bears defensive line], coach Marc Trestman is confident of the defensive line’s plan for the Saints.

“’We’ve done some things structurally to force and integrate some problems on the New Orleans side of the football, and we’ll see what happens,’ he said.”

Better play from the Bears defensive line would be welcome this week. They certainly haven’t been scaring anyone with much in the way of penetration this year and when that isn’t happening, the defense isn’t going to stop many decent offenses, let alone good ones like this.

Football games are almost always won and lost at the line of scrimmage. Turnovers or no turnovers, that’s the only place you had to look to see which was the better team last Sunday when the Bears lost to the Lions. That will be the place to look this week as well.