Moon: What to expect from BearsSaints

514180.jpg

Moon: What to expect from BearsSaints

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011Posted: 11:20 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
The Bears defensive line ran into something of a problem this week that could be something of a real problem on Sunday.

You always want to study film on an upcoming opponent, to clarify strengths and things to stay from, and to identify weaknesses and things you can exploit. In the case of latter when it came to New Orleans Saints guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, forget about it.

We were trying to find some tape where they actually got beat, defensive tackle Henry Melton said, shaking his head and marveling. It was hard to find.

So will sacks be for Melton, who had two in his first start last Sunday, against Atlanta.

Ouch
If you want a great first-hand idea of what Jay Cutler is going to be put through (at least thats the Saints plan) on Sunday, give a serious read to the analysis of Gregg Williams defenses done by Comcast SportsNet colleague Jim Miller in his "15 on 6" blog.

Jimmy faced Williams defenses, which are distant cousins to the Buddy Ryan groups that had an unspoken bounty deal working on opposing quarterbacks. For all of the fascination with the Bears newfound prowess with the screen pass, Jimmy doesnt see Williams letting the Bears repeat that. And the premium may well be placed on Cutler's accuracy down the field, which gets into a whole other issue, whether his offensive line can protect for that approach to work in the Noise-a-torium known as the Superdome.

Great thought on how to help the young Bears tackles: no-huddle. It worked for Green Bay. Its traditionally a way of minimizing blitz opps. Aaah, but heres the rub: The Packers were at home, this is on the road, and huddling takes time, which is a solid way of keeping Drew Brees and that offense watching.

Think about this

I mentioned this in the main advance for this game but it warrants repeating: Smith's Bears are 42-9 when opponents score 17 or fewer points.

But throw this in along with it, and you get a real glimpse into it takes to make a championship team, which the Bears most definitely believe they are.

Lovie Smith Bears teams are 54-10 when they score 18 or more points.

Now, refine all of this into cause-effect terms:

In the three playoff years under Smith, the Bears were 25-5 when they capped opposing point totals at 17 or less (2005, 11-1); 2006, 8-1; 2010, 6-3). And when they scored 18 or more, the record has been a net 28-1 (2005, 6-0; 2006, 12-0; 2010, 10-1).

What you really see in all this is why the Bears believe they can be something seriously great with Cutler and the offense taking a step up. They know their defense is solid and they win when they play D. When they put points on the board from the offense, they become legitimate NFC Championship or Super Bowl prospects.

Oh, in case youre wondering, the only time in three playoff years when the Bears scored 18 and didnt win the game? The Seattle game last year, a 23-20 loss to Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks.

And finally

With all of that, what happens Sunday?

The Saints are favored, by about a touchdown, which says that the better public isnt convinced that the Bears are as good as an 18-point winner over the Atlanta Falcons, or that the Saints can be beaten at home by a team with an offensive line thatll be given its most severe test since the New York Giants game last season. That was a road game as well.

If this game is early last season, the Saints are the pick. The reason is pretty simple: That offensive line was in real trouble (five different front fives in the first seven games) from the start. This one isnt even in the discussion with that bunch.

Not one starter from the first five games last year is in the same position as he was last year. A lot of ink and sound has been spent talking about the problems of line continuity but in this case, that kind of turnover is a good thing, not a bad one.

What that means is that Cutler will not automatically be in the peril he was last season, and of the five sacks he took against the Falcons, only two of those were the lines fault and Cutler can eliminate others with more timely release.

The Bears defense simply does not get trampled, and the Saints without Marques Colston are missing a huge field-stretching threat. That means that the defense can tighten down on the Saints running game (just a guess here, but they spent a No. 1 pick on Alabamas Mark Ingram not to upgrade their passing offense).

If the Saints cant get the Bears into a shootout and force CutlerMike Martz to abandon balance, the Bears will be 2-0 come sundown:

Bears 23, Saints 20

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.

Bears In-Foe: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?

Bears In-Foe: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?

Coming off two long fourth quarter drives by the Titans the week before that cost them their home opener, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers kept Detroit's defense in the dumps Sunday, shredding the Lions for 31 first-half points.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been tasked with replacing the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Stephen Tulloch over the last couple of years, and having to Band-Aid the unit from key injuries. One was game-changing linebacker DeAndre Levy, who played just 17 snaps all of 2015 after signing a $20 million extension. Austin, who's had nine head coaching interviews the past two off-seasons, had to be welcoming Levy back with open arms. Then he suffered a quad injury in the Titans game, sat out versus the Packers, and his status will be one to watch this week.

Then there's Ziggy Ansah, the fifth overall pick from 2013 who's only in his sixth year of even playing football.  His 14.5 sacks last season gave him 30 in 46 career games and made him the new centerpiece of the defense. But the Ghana native sustained a high ankle sprain in that same game against the Titans and is not expected to be ready for Sunday's noon date on the lakefront.

Who could possibly pick up some of that pass rush slack? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Kerry Hyder.

Who?

The undrafted free agent spent 2014 on the Jets' practice squad, then moved to the Lions last year. He almost seemed destined to spend another year on The Squad before he finished the preseason strong. The door opened, and the 6-foot-2, 270-pound end has four sacks so far. Tackle Haloti Ngata, who is 32 years old, struggled with injuries after coming over to help replace Suh, but finished strong, and has started well. Second-round pick A'Shaun Robinson rotates in after the Alabama product was passed over by the Bears.

[MORE BEARS IN-FOE: From Megatron to MegaMarv?]

Levy's injury left the Lions with only four linebackers at Lambeau after one promotion from the practice squad. Speedy, physical Tahir Whitehead took over for the now-departed Tulloch in the middle and earned his way into the starting lineup the last couple of years. Austin has given the other starting spot to Kyle Van Noy in a last-ditch attempt to prove spending a second-round pick on him in 2014 wasn't a mistake.

The secondary includes a stud corner and safety. Darius Slay (2013 second round) has turned into their shutdown guy and signed a four-year, $48 million extension in July. Nevin Lawson is just 5-9 but plays physical and fast opposite Slay - and was called for a 66-yard (!) pass interference penalty Sunday. Free safety Glover Quin's interception has the defense's lone takeaway this season and is one of the game's best. The team invested a fourth-round pick on heavy-hitting Miles Kinnebrew, and injury-prone Rafael Bush in free agency. But former Illini Tavon Wilson was signed away from the Patriots and held down the strong side before departing Sunday's loss with a neck injury.

Special teams

The Lions' coverage teams are top ten in both punts and kickoffs. The loss of Ameer Abdullah to his foot injury will affect the return game firepower, with backup wideout Andre Roberts filling in. Kicker Matt Prater is 5-for-6 on field goals thus far after being fifth in accuracy last year, including a 59-yarder versus the Bears at Soldier Field in last year's season finale.

Bears In-Foe: From Megatron to MegaMarv?

Bears In-Foe: From Megatron to MegaMarv?

Jim Bob Cooter. An interesting name. Some interesting stuff in his past, too. But since he took over the Lions offense about midway through last season, Matthew Stafford's been as good as ever, and it's carried over so far into this season. Even after his Megatarget - Calvin Johnson - decided to retire after last season.  But one aspect remains a concern after a recent injury.

Detroit is top-five in points, total yards and passing yards per game. They've jumped from last in the NFL last season to 15th in rushing, but after second-year back Ameer Abdullah averaged 5.6 yards per carry into their Week Two matchup, he tore a foot ligament and could be out for the season. With that, they managed just a 2.2-yard average Sunday in Green Bay, falling behind 31-3 before walking out of Lambeau a 34-27 loser to drop to 1-2.

Theo Riddick is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield (16 catches, 130 yards) after 80 receptions for nearly 700 yards a year ago, but he's still averaging just 3.3 per carry after 3.1 in 2015. Enter seventh-round rookie Dwayne Washington, who had a couple of touchdown runs in the preseason (one for 58 yards), along with a 96-yard kickoff return TD. He carried 10 times for 38 yards against the Packers.

[MORE BEARS IN-FOE: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?]

Stafford finished last season with 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions. That ratio is 7-to-2 this year. Through three weeks, he's second in passing yards, fourth in yards-per-attempt, and sixth in completion percentage. And wouldn't you know? His main target is the guy they brought in to replace Calvin Johnson: Marvin Jones. Many thought he wouldn't come close to comparing.

So far, the former Bengal has been targeted 29 times, with 18 catches for a league-high 408 yards. Six of those receptions and 205 of those yards came Sunday against Green Bay. Soon-to-be-36-year-old Anquan Boldin was a late signing despite still being physically imposing, and the 12th-leading receiver in league history. He's caught a pair of touchdowns among his 11 receptions for 105 yards. For the past two years (189 catches), Golden Tate was to Johnson what Randall Cobb is to Jordy Nelson in Green Bay when both are healthy. The Golden Domer has 13 grabs for 94 yards. And 2014 first-round tight end Eric Ebron has tested Motown's patience with knee, quad, and hand injuries his first two seasons. He's caught 14 passes thus far after 47 a year ago.

Stafford has a five-year non-injury starting streak after some health issues his first couple of seasons. That's amazing with the way he's been knocked around (44 sacks a year ago). He's hit the turf eight times the first three weeks. They've gone to great lengths in recent drafts to fix that, spending high picks trying to shore up protection and get a ground game going to complement their aerial assault. That continued this spring under new GM Bob Quinn, who came over from New England and kept coach Jim Caldwell in place. Tackle Taylor Decker out of Ohio State was chosen 16th as 2012 top pick Riley Reiff has underachieved heading into his contract year. Last year's number-one pick, guard Laken Tomlinson out of Lane Tech High School, has yet to live up to his selection. 2013 third-rounder Larry Warford compared to Kyle Long in the same draft class, but has struggled with injuries. And for the second time in three years, the Lions drafted a center in the third round (Graham Glasgow from Michigan via Marmion Military Academy in 2016; Travis Swanson in 2014).