After stumbling on primetime in Week 7, the Chicago Bears need to have a short turnaround to prepare for the New Orleans Saints in Week 8. Here are some predictions for the game.
Well, it was a glorious 24 hours seeing the Chicago Bears on top of the NFC standings after the Seattle Seahawks lost on Sunday night. Suddenly, however, they went tumbling down after an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Rams. They now find themselves as the fifth seed, and, look like they could tumble even more.
The offense looked as bad as it ever has this season. The unit couldn’t sustain many drives, and when it did, something happened to kill the momentum. The Rams harassed quarterback Nick Foles all game long. He couldn’t step into his throws and as a result, he was sacked four times, threw two interceptions, and missed at least three other throws that could have turned the game in Chicago’s favor.
Now the questions about the offense grow louder. Those people who felt that the Bears were pretenders feel vindicated after how bad this team looked.
Now, the Bears have a short week to forget about what happened and get on with preparing for their next opponents. The New Orleans Saints come to town. We all remember the beatdown they gave the Bears last season. That just adds to the importance of the game. The NFC is crunched together right now and a losing streak, especially one involving multiple NFC teams can kill the season. However, the Bears were in this situation a few weeks ago after they suffered a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. They had a short week to prepare for the hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they came through. Let’s hope it happens again.
At any rate, here are some predictions for the game.
The offensive line shows its pride and plays better
Okay, so maybe I am the eternal optimist but I feel this line can play better. I mean, at some point a player’s pride and ego have to take over after so much negativity, right? When does Charles Leno Jr. finally decide to stop acting like a turnstile? When does Rashaad Coward finally realize that, hey, staying on your feet helps you block better than falling on the ground?
The Chicago Bears’ offensive line is missing a leader. They need that one alpha player who gets the others in line. They had that in Kyle Long. He would get into scraps with opposing players and talk smack. His teammates didn’t want to let him down. Now that he’s retired, they don’t have that.
Cody Whitehair should be that new leader. The center is the captain of the line, the quarterback of the line. Whitehair isn’t a vocal kind of guy, however. He’s more of a silent leader. It’s not in his personality. That’s understandable. I thought Germain Ifedi, who has some of that nastiness in him, could do it but he hasn’t taken charge like that yet.
What isn’t understandable when it comes to Whitehair is calling the plays on the line. As the quarterback of the line, he needs to call the blocking schemes. He needs to read a defense as well as a quarterback does. So far, he isn’t doing a very good job of it.
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Whitehair recently received criticism from legendary center Olin Kreutz.
Part of the Bears’ problems is when you watch their film is that Cody’s not doing a very good job recognizing these run blitzes coming at them…When you play a game wrecker, you just have to always account for where he is. You’re going to change protections a little bit. A lot of that comes down the center. Like, OK, if I’m supposed to slide away from Aaron Donald here but the linebacker doesn’t look like he’s coming that I’m sliding to, I’m just going to change the protection and make maybe a middle call and sit right here in the middle so I can take my help to Aaron Donald, especially if he’s matched up on Rashaad Coward.
The offensive line will show its pride and do a better job. The Saints’ pass rush is almost nonexistent. They rank dead last in passing touchdowns allowed and 23rd in interceptions. This is a good “get good” game for them. If they cannot protect Foles against this pass rush then the Bears are in deeper trouble than we ever thought.
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Prediction: The line keeps Foles upright. They don’t give up a sack and Foles has clean looks at his receivers.
The defensive front plays the run better
The Chicago Bears defense struggled early on with their run defense. The unit got better as the season progressed. That blew up against the Rams, though. While it was the middle of the defensive line that struggled, for the most part, the Rams experienced success on the edges. The jet sweep and regular sweep got them big yards. Because of that, the Bears gave up 161 yards, the most this season. Quarterback Jared Goff had two touchdown passes, but threw for only 219 yards. The Rams’ running game set up Goff to make short touchdown passes. He had a 4-yard touchdown pass and a 12-yard touchdown pass in the game.
The Bears want to clean up the edges to keep that from happening again. There were a couple of things that went wrong that really hurt the defense. Akiem Hicks committed four penalties (and the officials missed another obvious one). His errors helped continue drives and get the Rams into the red zone. Because of that, the Rams scored three touchdowns in their four red zone trips. He was a one-man wrecking crew against the Chicago Bears. I don’t envision him doing that again.
The Bears need to control the running game so they can keep quarterback Drew Brees in check. If he has to throw all the time, it won’t be good for him. The Bears pass rush will be all over him. Brees has done a good job of throwing some short passes and having his athletic receivers make plays. If the Bears pin back and just play the pass, they can get to Brees. He isn’t exactly nimble so this could be a good game for the pass rush. If the Bears cannot stop the run, however, it’ll be a long day.
Prediction: The Bears defense holds the Saints to 103 total rushing yards and sacks Brees three times.
This could be Nagy’s final chance to involve the running game more
Let’s see, have you heard this before? The Bears struggle with their rushing attack and head coach Matt Nagy says they have to run more and get the running backs more involved in the offense. He’s been saying that since the moment the 2019 season ended. Then the next game comes around and the same thing happens again.
Nagy is a great leader of men. Say what you want about his deficiencies, but his players play hard for him and would run through walls for him. As bad as the Rams game was, the players were still playing hard, but nothing worked.
The problem with Nagy, though, is his playcalling. In preparation for each game, he fails to prepare the run game. Against the Rams, David Montgomery had just 14 carries — seven in the first half and seven in the second half. Yes, the Bears got down big and had to throw more in the second half. However, the game was just 10-3 at halftime and seven carries aren’t enough to get the running game going.
In the seven games this season, Montgomery has yet to reach 20 carries. That doesn’t allow him (or the offensive line) to get into a rhythm. The Bears run just 36 percent of the time. That is not a good ratio. Last season, the Bears ran it 40 percent of the time. Despite Nagy continually saying he wants to run more, the percentage is lower this season than last season. The more you run the ball, the better rhythm you get. As a result, you’ll see big runs.
Montgomery needs help. Is Lamar Miller ready yet? What about Artavis Pierce? He is healthy and could help. Why not try him and see what he contributes?
The calls for Nagy to give up playcalling are getting louder by the week. At some point, he has to hear those calls and look within himself to decide if those calls are correct. Even if he doesn’t give up the playcalling, he needs to involve offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and Foles. The more eyes you have in a situation the better the plan gets. Nagy will always be involved in the game plan. He might need to just have Lazor put the plan into action and assist him. Sometimes great leadership means knowing when to give up control.
Prediction: The Bears run the ball 36 times and Montgomery finally eclipses 100 yards.
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