Offense sputters as Saints slam Bears

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Offense sputters as Saints slam Bears

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011Posted: 3:45 p.m. Updated: 6:06 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
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NEW ORLEANS Since Super Bowl XX the Louisiana Superdome has rarely been a friendly venue for the Bears. Theyve only won here once in five trips since that day in 1986.

It may be awhile before they win here again, if Sundays 30-13 loss to the Saints was any indication. The Bears will need a regrouping after failing to pick up even one first down on seven of 13 possessions on offense and allowing the Saints to score on four straight first-half possessions at one point.

They just out-played us, said safety Brandon Meriweather. Sometimes its just that simple.

Perspective was all defensive end Julius Peppers asked: Hey, last week we won, this week we lost. Remember, its very early in the regular season. We have to learn what went wrong today, study the film and get ready for next week.

That would be for the Green Bay Packers, arguably a big step up in class and the NFC North leaders at 2-0 along with the Detroit Lions, 48-3 winners over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers weathered another 400-yard passing day by rookie Cam Newton and won at Carolina 30-23.

This was just a team loss, Lovie Smith said. It only counts one game. Were 1-1 right now with another big one coming up next week.

Close, and then.

Before the standard Superdome shrill-fest crowd of 73,019, the Bears stayed close to the explosive Saints into the early third quarter, trailing just 16-13 less than four minutes after halftime. They had gone up 7-0 in the first quarter, then were battered 30-6 over the games final 52 minutes, briefly coming to life and then being shut down.

The game slid away from them with increasing speed as the Saints shut down the Chicago offense and refused to let the Chicago defense off the field.

We were on a real high last week after winning against Atlanta, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. We dont have that same feeling now.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees completed 26 of 37 passes for 270 yards, threw three touchdowns, zero interceptions, was sacked just once early and posted a rating of 118.1, the highest against the Bears in the past two seasons.

The Bears game plan was not a problem for him.

Typically when its two high safeties, Cover-2, thats typically a more conservative approach, Brees said. But our two big pass plays came against Cover-2. Today we knew the formula for winning the game ourselves.

Mauling on offense

Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked six times in the second half, five in the fourth quarter alone, and was raspy voiced after being inadvertently kicked in the throat. Pass protection collapsed with two starters out of the offensive line and New Orleans throwing blitzes from all angles mixed in with drops of as many as eight into coverage. Bears receivers could not adjust to the situations and dropped several key passes that would have resulted in third-down conversions.

It was a long day out there, Cutler said. I dont know how many sacks I took but I had to throw a lot of balls away before I wanted to.

A lot of them went to Matt Forte.

Indeed, Forte provided virtually the only offense of note. The running back had a 42-yard carry in the first quarter, then was held to seven yards on his other nine carries, but caught 10 of 14 passes thrown to him by a harried Cutler needing to check-down from primary receivers blanketed.

Fortes 166 total yards (49 rushing, 117 receiving) follow his 158 last week against Atlanta.

On a lot of the passes I caught I wasnt the primary receiver on most of them, Forte said. I did make the best of what was in front of me after catching the ball and I was able to pick up some yards throughout the game.

Most of the times the Saints were blitzing.

String broken

It was the first time a Lovie Smith Bears team has lost to the Saints, but also the first time the Bears have played New Orleans outside of Soldier Field. The Bears now get the next two games in the comfort of their own house, although the immediate concern is the Green Bay Packers arriving for a 3:15 p.m. event next Sunday.

Egregious reversals were the story of the game, committed by both offense and defense and resulting in 14 New Orleans points within the first 32 minutes of the game.

The defense had Brees and the Saints offense in a third-and-long from their 21-yard line and allowed a 79-yard TD pass.

The offense, after driving for a field goal to open the third quarter and the defense delivering a three-and-out, turned the ball over on a sack of Cutler that forced a fumble deep in the Chicago end. The result: touchdown.

The defense was consistently unable to get off the field, allowing the Saints conversions on six of their first 12 third downs and giving up 320 yards through three quarters.

The offense had flashes but had little to offer with any consistency beyond Forte, who had a combined 144 yards (49 rushing, 95 receiving) through three quarters out of the Bears 228 total.

The Bears were unable to protect Cutler adequately against an amped-up pass rush and a myriad of blitz looks, a Saints trademark under coordinator Gregg Williams. He was sacked just once officially through the third quarter but was too often flushed and forced to throw on the run, too often check-downs to Forte.

You know, they just played better than we did, they got a lot of pressure on the quarterback, Smith said. It was a 16-13 game in the third quarter.

Disaster O

The Bears appeared poised to take back some control of a game that had slipped away from them for much of the first half. On their first possession of the third quarter, they drove to the New Orleans 20 with the big play a 30-yard completion to Johnny Knox. The drive stalled at that point as Cutler missed on three straight throws and Gould gave the Bears the first points of the second half with a 38-yard field goal to make the score 16-13.

But after the defense delivered a stop and the offense had the ball back at the Chicago 36, Cutler was sacked from the blind side by defensive end Turk McBride, who easily got around tight end Kellen Davis. McBride blasted the ball loose and it was recovered by linebacker Jonathan Vilma at the Chicago 29.

Two plays later Brees found Robert Meacham for a four-yard touchdown and a 23-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

It worsened to 30-13 when Darren Sproles finished a 14-play, 87-yard drive with a 12-yard TD catch-and-run with 12 minutes to play.
Disaster D

After a deep punt by Adam Podlesh and sack of Brees by Israel Idonije, the Saints faced a third-and-12 from their 21 early in the second quarter. But Brees stepped up in the pocket and saw speedster Devery Henderson bearing down on safety Major Wright, and if Henderson, one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, is even, hes leavin.

Brees hit Henderson in stride and Henderson eluded tackle attempts by Wright and Chris Conte, taking the ball 79 yards for a devastating reversal at a time when the Bears appeared poised to take an upper hand and dial down the effects of mounting crowd noise.

On the third-and-12 its a defense that almost always gets a certain coverage look, said Saints coach Sean Payton. Its one of those third-and-longs that kind of sit in your pocket as a call for it if it comes up, and it came up early.

The score put the Saints up 10-7 and the lead bumped to 13-7 when John Kasay added a 29-yard field goal at the end of another long New Orleans drive. Kasay, looking like anything but a 41-year-old in his 21st NFL season, edged a 53-yarder over the crossbar with just over two minutes to play in the half to give the Saints a 16-7 advantage.

The problem with the steady New Orleans points production was its forcing the Bears into a must-throw deficit in a place where the offensive line struggles for coordination amid the din of the Superdome. It also allowed Brees and the Saints to use all elements of their offense, not simply throw.

A 42-yard field goal by Robbie Gould as time expired in the first half brought the Bears back to 16-10, within one score and still able to utilize both running and passing in the offense.

Without the 79-yard pass, the Bears actually out-gained the Saints in the first half, 165-150. Forte, with 49 rushing yards and 69 receiving, accounted for the bulk of the Chicago offense.
Feeling heat

The Saints brought pressure, as expected, throwing an eight-man front on the first third-and-long and rushed six. The heat got close to Cutler, who was moving outside the pocket frequently on early snaps.

But Forte popped a run around the right end behind solid blocking on the edge and carried 42 yards to set the Bears up with a first down at the New Orleans 45 on the Bears second possession. Cutler avoided the rush long enough to find Forte for 18 yards two plays later.

The Bears finished a dicey, penalty speckled possession with an eight-yard TD pass from Cutler to Dane Sanzenbacher, all alone at the back of the end zone on a well-designed, well-executed pass that exploited the defenses clear plan to get into backfield after Cutler.

The drive consumed 5:29 and gave the Bears a brief, early crowd-quieter.

The Saints answered with a 13-play drive of their own, methodically driving to the Chicago 14 before a third-and-1 pass into the end zone fell incomplete. Kasay, signed after kicker Garrett Hartley was injured in Week 1, converted from 31 yards for a 7-3 mark at the end of the first quarter.

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 Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

Bears Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

BOURBONNAIS — As expected, right guard Kyle Long was absent from practice on Friday, nursing a calf strain that the Bears will handle conservatively and not rush their Pro Bowl offensive lineman back onto the field.

Long strained his left calf late in Thursday’s practice and Friday saw veteran Ted Larsen step in at right guard with the No. 1 line, as the Bears leave rookie Cody Whitehair in place as the starting left guard for now.

- Additionally, rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to make his way through lunch but not onto the practice field after leaving due to ongoing illness Thursday.

[MORE: Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine]

- Former Bears cornerback Nathan “The Interceptor” Vasher is in camp as a defensive intern, and the Bears also have brought in former New York Jets center Kevin Mawae to work with the offensive line and young center Hroniss Grasu. Vasher is part of the NFL’s internship program while Mawae is in as a guest instructor, something routinely done for stretches of training camp and preseason.

Vasher earned his nickname in 2005 when he was a Pro Bowl and All-NFL selection after collecting eight interceptions — the Bears combined total for all of 2015 — for Lovie Smith’s first playoff team.

“The league instituted [the internship program] a while ago,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “Have had a lot of guys that were ex-players that are now coaching in the league. I think everybody kind of searches for what they want to do when they retire at a very young age from the game, so I think some guys have coaching in them, some don't. I think Kevin was a very smart player in his career; he can help in the NFL in the coaching profession."

- The Bears secondary could use a little dose of “Interceptor” right about now. Demontre Hurst managed an interception of a Brian Hoyer pass on Friday, but that represents the lone takeaway by the defense through two days of practice. The lack of takeaways proved lethal to the Bears last season, with the lowest full-season total (17) in franchise history.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

- Thursday’s rains appeared to leave the Olivet Nazarene University fields healthy but apparently a little treacherous, as a number of Bears had their feet slip out from under them through Friday’s practice.

- Officials were on hand to “work” the Bears’ practice on Friday, throwing flags where warranted and drawing occasional sharp disagreements with certain Bears coaches.

“You know, you try to simulate as well as you can a real game and they're out there in games,” Fox said. “These aren't NFL officials; they'll be here next week as we prepare for our Fan Fest at Soldier Field to build towards getting ready for games, but obviously it's helpful. They get to monitor the players and kind of do's and don't's and I think it's good simulated football.”

Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine

Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine

BOURBONNAIS — For much of this offseason’s practices, the Bears’ offense has had to put up with spirited mouthiness from a feisty Bears defense. On Friday, the day before the Bears get into full pads for the first time in nearly seven months, a touch of the smack flowed the other way, set in motion by one of the smallest players on the roster.

Wide receiver Daniel Braverman, the diminutive (5-9, 185) seventh-round pick of the Bears in this year’s draft, outfought fellow rookie Deiondre' Hall (6-2, 201) for a contested ball across the middle, bounced up and let out with a yell to confirm exactly which side of the ball came away with it.

The catch was the first of many by Braverman, whose day was mirrored by starting wideout Kevin White also making repeated, sometimes acrobatic catches against what until now was a defense firmly holding the upper hand this offseason.

[MORE: Akiem Hicks sees Tom Brady qualities in Jay Cutler]

“I think [Braverman] is a guy who was very productive in college, our scouting department really liked him, that's why we drafted him,” said coach John Fox. “I think you know he caught our eyes as far as putting it all together in the offseason and he's continued on that so far this camp.”

Running back Jeremy Langford added several long bursts on runs through the interior, and various receivers added to the day that belonged in large measure to the offense despite missing starting right guard Kyle Long (calf injury).

The defense did have its highlights. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks generated a pair of dominating pass rushes that produced a simulated sack of Jay Cutler and a throwaway, Willie Young blew up a pass play coming clean on a blitz, and safety Harold Jones-Quartey threw Langford to the ground on a non-tackle tackle after the latter had ripped off one of his gashes through the defense.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

Braverman also has been worked on kickoff return and will have myriad chances to be a roster surprise, given the four preseason games and handful of practices in New England with the Patriots.

“These coaches preach every day how important special teams is, and that's something I have to learn to get adjusted to because I was just a returner,” Braverman said. “But now here you have to be a ‘gunner’ and and R2, L2, [position] stuff on kickoffs. It's just getting one day better in every little detail and aspect you can possible in 24 hours of a day.”

Bears: Akiem Hicks sees Tom Brady qualities in Jay Cutler

Bears: Akiem Hicks sees Tom Brady qualities in Jay Cutler

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Akiem Hicks has spent the better part of his four-year NFL career intent on annihilating quarterbacks. The defensive lineman also has spent those four years in the presence of two of the greats of this or any NFL era – Drew Brees in New Orleans and Tom Brady in New England.

He has seen some of what makes them great. And since joining the Bears last March, Hick has seen similar traits in his current quarterback – Jay Cutler.

“They have those intangibles,” Hicks told CSNChicago.com on Thursday. “All the stats that you see – the 4,000-yard seasons, the 50-touchdown [seasons] – they also have things that people don’t get to really get to see all the time. It’s something when you’re close to it and see it all the time… . Tom Brady, for instance. This is a real leader.

“And I see the same qualities in Jay Cutler – somebody who knows how to motivate his guys, knows when to get on his guys’ heads, all that. You see it all the time in practice and then it translates into the game. Guys believe in them more.”

Brady has won twice as many Super Bowls than Cutler has playoff games. The two are rarely mentioned in the same sentence.

But Hicks’ assessment of Cutler is not the first by a teammate to focus on the “L” word – Leadership. As Hicks says of Brady and Brees, outsiders do not see what teammates say. And that is the bigger point.