The New Orleans Saints are on a four game winning streak, without their Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, in large part because of a defense playing at an elite level. The 5-1 Saints have forced five turnovers in the last four contests, and have held two of their last three opponents to just 2 scores. New Orleans now takes on the 3-2 Chicago Bears in Chicago this Sunday afternoon. The Bears are 30th in the league in total offensive yardage, average only 17.4 points per game, and have scored over 21 points just once this season. The New Orleans defense will probably once again have to be special to tilt the balance of what is expected to be a low scoring battle, so let's see how they match up against the struggling Chicago offense.
SAINTS PASS DEFENSE vs. BEARS PASS OFFENSE
The New Orleans secondary has been playing shutdown football for the last three games. Opponents have averaged 239 yards per game through the air against the Saints this season, but less than 174 per game over the last three contests. They've held opposing passers to only 59% completion percentage during their four game winning streak, and have made receivers nearly invisible. Cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple have been terrific in coverage, eradicating wideouts like Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, D.J. Chark, and Dede Westbrook from opposing game plans. Lattimore and Apple are playing at an elite level, but they're getting alot of help from safeties Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell, who have eliminated the big play over the top and stepped into coverage responsibilities well themselves. Saints nickel P.J. Williams is serving a two game league suspension, but rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has played well with increased snaps and should step into that role capably. New Orleans has been able to get incredible pressure on the quarterback to help the secondary, mostly from an deep and elite defensive line. Defensive ends Cameron Jordan (5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits) and Marcus Davenport (3 sacks, 12 quarterback hits) have made a living in opposing backfields most of the year. The team as a whole has 18 sacks and 40 qb hits, also getting consistent inside pressure from tackles Sheldon Rankins, Malcom Brown, and David Onyemata.
Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is questionable to return to the lineup, after missing the last game with a torn labrum and dislocated left shoulder. Trubisky and backup Chase Daniel have combined to complete 68% of their passes for an average of only 185 yards per game, ranking a lowly 30th in the league. Chicago's top receiver is sixth year wideout Allen Robinson, who has 31 catches for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson shoulders the workload of the Bears passing game with 43 targets, and has caught at least six balls in every game but one this season. The next most productive receiver is running back Tarik Cohen, who has 20 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Trey Burton is an underrated receiver at the position, but has hauled in just 11 passes for 57 yards. Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller are both big play threats at wide receiver, but have combined for only 17 receptions and 190 yards, although Gabriel has scored three touchdowns. Chicago has had issues along the offensive line, worsened this week by having to place their best lineman on injured reserve, offensive tackle Kyle Long. Bears quarterbacks have been sacked 13 times and have taken alot of punishment, with that total likely being higher if not for Trubisky's good mobility.
Matchup to Watch:
New Orleans secondary vs. Chicago WR's/TE's
This game will not have the one on one showdowns we've seen the Saints defensive backs engaged in over the last few games. Robinson is a solid NFL wideout though, while both Miller and Gabriel are capable of a back breaking play. The Saints secondary must continue their high level of play to keep the Chicago passing game from getting into a rhythm, and may need to create turnovers themselves to tilt the balance.
SAINTS RUN DEFENSE vs. BEARS RUN OFFENSE
The Saints are giving up less than 103 yards per game on the ground. While that ranks just 14th in the NFL, New Orleans has held their last three opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground, and are holding opposing running backs to just 3.6 yards per carry and less than 60 yards per game. The defensive line has been dominating the line of scrimmage, getting consistent push into the backfield and eliminating all cutback lanes. The Saints tackles, led by Malcom Brown, are often altering plays by getting immediate penetration off the snap. Linebacker Demario Davis, who leads the team in tackles, is playing at an elite level. Fellow linebackers Kiko Alonso and A.J. Klein are both solid run defenders that are part of a swarming Saints run defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yd. rusher since early in the 2017 season.
Chicago's running game averages just 80 yards a game and worse yet, only 3.4 yards per attempt. Rookie 3rd round pick David Montgomery is their leading rusher with 225 yards and has scored twice, but has only averaged 3.3/carry. The Bears have used a variety of misdirection to try to get the run game on track. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson only has 3 catches, but is dangerous in the open field and is the team's second leading rusher with 71 yards on ten carries. Cohen is Chicago's most versatile weapon, but has been bottled up for only 37 yards on the ground.
Matchup to Watch:
Saints defensive line vs. Bears offensive line
The New Orleans defensive line must be able to continue their dominant play against a Bears line that has struggled most of the year. Not just to shut down the running game, but also to create heavy pressure on either Trubisky or Daniel to cause havoc for the Bears' passing attack.
Trubisky may be an inconsistent passer, but has been able to make plays with his legs throughout his young career. Coming off an injury, that seems unlikely to be a factor here if in fact he does play. The Saints defense must be able to keep the Chicago passing game under pressure, both up front and in the secondary, while shutting down the Bears running attack. The New Orleans offense will be limited without not only Brees, but running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook as well. The Saints defense is riding high in confidence, and looks to have a distinct advantage against a low ranked Bears offense. They may have to cause multiple turnovers to win this game though, and will certainly have to limit Chicago's possessions and create a short field and scoring chances for the offense.
What is the biggest key to success for the New Orleans defense against Chicago's offense?
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Saints secondary vs. Bears WR's/TE's
Saints defensive line vs. Bears offensive line
Saints LB's vs. Bears RB's