The Chicago Bears hung around with the New Orleans Saints this afternoon through the first half, then things turned ugly. The team was outscored 14-0 in the second half, nearly getting QB Jay Cutler killed in the process, en route to a 30-13 loss.
Let's take a look back at what went wrong for Chicago in the team's Week 2 loss.
-The offensive line gave up six sacks to a Saints defense that brought non-stop pressure all game. That now makes 11 sacks given up in the first two games. T Gabe Carimi went down last in the first half with a right knee injury and was replaced by Frank Omiyale. The front line subsequently imploded. At one point, Cutler was sacked on three straight plays. The last sack was one in which DE Turk McBride came off the edge untouched near the goal line. How a defensive end can get a clean look at the quarterback is anyone's guess.
Up until this game, the front five had been making progress. Yet the unit features four players at new positions. Chris Spencer was filling in for Lance Louis at right guard, a position at which he has little experience. As such, the exotic blitz packages Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dialed up were just too much for the front five to handle. J'Marcus Webb was once again awful on the left side, as was Chris Williams.
It's obvious this group has a long way to go. Things may continue at this pace as well if Carimi is out for an extended period of time. Coordinator Mike Martz did not appear ready for the Saints' pressure and will need to do a much better job going forward of designing game plans that can get the ball out of Cutler's hands quicker.
RB Matt Forte
-The bright spot on the day was the play of RB Matt Forte, who rushed 10 times for 49 yards and caught 10 passes for 117 yards. In the second half, the Bears' only offense was to spread the defense out with multiple receivers and have them run deep, clearing room for Cutler to dump the ball off to Forte. It's amazing to consider that Chicago's front office was unable to come to terms with him on a contract extension, as he's obviously the only player opposing defenses need to worry about.
-WR Roy Williams did not play due to a groin injury and the team lost WR Earl Bennett in the first quarter with a chest injury. This gave rookie Dane Sanzenbacher a chance at extended playing time. He played well early, catching a first-quarter touchdown pass but faded from there. In the second half, he dropped two passes that would have gone for first downs. His second drop hit his hands and he was subsequently rocked by Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. Welcome the NFL, rookie. He finished the day with three catches for 33 yards.
-The Bears were forced to play catch up for most of the game, resulting in 45 pass attempts by Cutler. He was only able to complete 19 of those for 244 yards, yet he did well not to throw any interceptions. It's hard to place much blame on Cutler though, as he was running for his life most of the afternoon.
-TE Kellen Davis was non-existent in this game. In my keys to the game, I felt Davis could take advantage of the Saints' outside linebackers in the middle of the field. Instead, he was forced to stay in and block for most of the game. He did not catch a single pass and gave up a sack.
-Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Amobi Okoye both played well in the preseason and combined for three sacks last week. Yet today, neither was able to get penetration against the Saint's tandem of Pro-Bowl guards. This allowed New Orleans to double-team and chip on Julius Peppers, effectively taking him out of the game. Peppers ended the day with just one tackle and zero sacks. Melton and Okoye will need to do a much better job going forward of applying pressure up the middle or Chicago's defense will continue to get eaten up through the air.
-Speaking of underperforming DTs, Anthony Adams and Matt Toeaina were invisible all game. Neither was able to anchor well, allowing the Saints' three-headed rushing attack to rack up 118 yards on the ground.
-LB Brian Urlacher, who attended the funeral for his mother last night, had an understandably sub-par game. He finished with just three tackles. Yet because neither Toeaina nor Adams commanded any double teams, Urlacher was often cut off by offensive linemen at the second level.
-There were two front-seven players that actually played well. LB Lance Briggs had a big game, racking up 11 tackles, many of which came on third-down stops. DE Israel Idonije also performed at a high level, earning his first sack of the season to go along with six tackles, one for a loss. Idonije got off to a slow start this year and hasn't looked like himself up to this point. This game should give him confidence heading into next week's tilt against the Green Bay Packers.
-Veteran safety Chris Harris did not suit up due to a hamstring issue, which pushed Brandon Meriweather into the starting lineup at free safety. Major Wright shifted to strong safety yet had an awful game. He let WR Devery Henderson behind him on a 3rd and 12, resulting in a 79-yard touchdown pass that took the life out of the defense. The team never recovered after that. If Harris is healthy this week, I expect the Bears to promote Meriweather into the starter's role, as Wright just doesn't appear ready for full-time duties.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.