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
Box score Photo gallery
Lovie: They played better than us
READ: Four units earn failing marks
READ: Bears get banged up

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.

Players drafted by NFL head coach who led team at Senior Bowl

Players drafted by NFL head coach who led team at Senior Bowl

The Bears coaching staff will get a close look at some of the draft's top prospects when they head to Mobile to coach the 2017 Reese's Senior Bowl on Jan. 28.

John Fox and his staff will spend a week in Mobile getting to evaluate and work one-on-one with players from the North team, leading up to All-Star game.

If you're a Bears fan, you'll want to take a close look at the North roster because if past history is any indication, at least one of those prospects will likely be a member of the Bears in 2017.

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CSN stats guru Chris Kamka compiled a list of players drafted by the NFL head coach who led their team at the Senior Bowl (2000-16).

Check out the full list below:

2000 - Carolina Panthers (George Seifert)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (23rd) Rashard Anderson DB Jackson St.
3rd (82nd) Leander Jordan T Indiana (PA)
6th (182nd) Jeno James G Auburn
7th (221st) Lester Towns LB Washington

2000 - Kansas City Chiefs (Gunther Cunningham)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (21st) Sylvester Morris WR Jackson St.
2nd (54th) William Bartee DB Oklahoma
6th (188th) Darnell Alford G Boston College

2001 - Pittsburgh Steelers (Bill Cowher)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (39th) Kendrell Bell LB Georgia

2001 - Green Bay Packers (Mike Sherman)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (71st) Bhawoh Jue DB Penn St.
3rd (72nd) Torrance Marshall LB Oklahoma

2002 - Arizona Cardinals (Dave McGinnis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (81st) Josh McCown QB Sam Houston St.
4th (113th) Nate Dwyer DT Kansas 
5th (149th) Jason McAddley WR Alabama

2002 - Seattle Seahawks (Mike Holmgren)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
5th (171st) Matt Hill T Boise St.

2003 - Detroit Lions (Marty Mornhinweg)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (99th) Artose Pinner RB Kentucky
5th (137th) Terrence Holt DB North Carolina St.
7th (216th) Ben Johnson T Wisconsin

2003 - Houston Texans (Dom Capers)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (41st) Bennie Joppru TE Michigan
3rd (75th) Seth Wand T NW Missouri St.
3rd (88th) Dave Ragone QB Louisville
4th (101st) Domanick Williams RB LSU

2004 - Cincinnati Bengals (Marvin Lewis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (49th) Keiwan Ratliff DB Florida
2nd (56th) Madieu Williams DB Maryland
6th (183rd) Greg Brooks DB Southern Mississippi

2004 - San Diego Chargers (Marty Schottenheimer)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (65th) Nate Kaeding K Iowa
3rd (66th) Nick Hardwick C Purdue
4th (98th) Shaun Phillips DE Purdue
5th (133rd) Dave Ball DE UCLA
5th (154th) Michael Turner RB Northern Illinois
7th (209th) Shane Olivea T Ohio St.

2005 - Oakland Raiders (Norv Turner)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (78th) Kirk Morrison LB San Diego St.
6th (175th) Anttaj Hawthorne DT Wisconsin

2005 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jon Gruden)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (5th) Cadillac Williams RB Auburn
2nd (36th) Barrett Ruud LB Nebraska
3rd (71st) Alex Smith TE Stanford
4th (107th) Dan Buenning G Wisconsin
6th (178th) Anthony Bryant DT Alabama

2006 - San Francisco 49ers (Mike Nolan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (22nd) Manny Lawson DE North Carolina St.
4th (100th) Michael Robinson WR Penn St.
5th (140th) Parys Haralson DE Tennessee
6th (192nd) Marcus Hudson DB North Carolina St.

2006 - Tennessee Titans (Jeff Fisher)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
5th (169th) Jesse Mahelona DT Tennessee

2007 - San Francisco 49ers (Mike Nolan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (11th) Patrick Willis LB Mississippi
1st (28th) Joe Staley T Central Michigan
3rd (76th) Jason Hill WR Washington St.
3rd (97th) Ray McDonald DE Florida
4th (104th) Jay Moore DE Nebraska
6th (186th) Thomas Clayton RB Kansas St.

2007 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jon Gruden)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (35th) Aaron Sears G Tennessee
4th (106th) Tanard Jackson DB Syracuse
7th (246th) Kenneth Darby RB Alabama

2008 - San Francisco 49ers (Mike Nolan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (29th) Kentwan Balmer DT North Carolina
4th (107th) Cody Wallace C Texas A&M

2008 - Oakland Raiders (Lane Kiffin)

No players selected.

2009 - Cincinnati Bengals (Marvin Lewis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (38th) Rey Maualuga LB USC
4th (106th) Jonathan Luigs C Arkansas
5th (142nd) Kevin Huber P Cincinnati
6th (179th) Morgan Trent DB Michigan

2009 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Jack Del Rio)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (107th) Mike Thomas WR Arizona
7th (250th) Rashad Jennings RB Liberty

2010 - Miami Dolphins (Tony Sparano)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (28th) Jared Odrick DE Penn St.
2nd (40th) Koa Misi LB Utah
3rd (73rd) John Jerry T Mississippi
4th (119th) A.J. Edds LB Iowa

2010 - Detroit Lions (Jim Schwartz)

No players selected.

2011 - Buffalo Bills (Chan Gailey)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (68th) Kelvin Sheppard LB LSU
4th (100th) Da'Norris Searcy DB North Carolina
6th (169th) Chris White LB Mississippi St.

2011 - Cincinnati Bengals (Marvin Lewis)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (35th) Andy Dalton QB TCU
4th (101st) Clint Boling G Georgia

2012 - Minnesota Vikings (Leslie Frazier)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (29th) Harrison Smith DB Notre Dame
7th (210th) Audie Cole LB North Carolina St.

2012 - Washington Redskins (Mike Shanahan)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (102nd) Kirk Cousins QB Michigan St.
4th (119th) Keenan Robinson LB Texas
6th (173rd) Alfred Morris RB Florida Atlantic

2013 - Detroit Lions (Jim Schwartz)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1st (5th) Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU
3rd (65th) Larry Warford G Kentucky
7th (211st) Michael Williams TE Alabama

2013 - Oakland Raiders (Dennis Allen)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (66th) Sio Moore LB Connecticut
4th (112th) Tyler Wilson QB Arkansas
6th (172nd) Nick Kasa TE Colorado
6th (184th) Mychal Rivera TE Tennessee

2014 - Atlanta Falcons (Mike Smith)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
2nd (37th) Ra'Shede Hageman DT Minnesota
3rd (68th) Dezmen Southward DB Wisconsin

2014 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Gus Bradley)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
3rd (93rd) Brandon Linder OL Miami (FL)
4th (114th) Aaron Colvin DB Oklahoma
5th (144th) Telvin Smith LB Florida St.
5th (159th) Chris Smith DE Arkansas

2015 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Gus Bradley)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
7th (229th) Ben Koyack TE Notre Dame

2015 - Tennessee Titans (Ken Whisenhunt)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (108th) Jalston Fowler FB Alabama
5th (138th) David Cobb RB Minnesota

2016 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Gus Bradley)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (103rd) Sheldon Day DT Notre Dame
6th (201st) Brandon Allen QB Arkansas

2016 - Dallas Cowboys (Jason Garrett)

ROUND (overall) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
4th (101st) Charles Tapper DE Oklahoma
4th (135th) Dak Prescott QB Mississippi St.

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

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In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."