Noots' Notes

The Bears (5-3) won their fourth consecutive game by utilizing running backs Adrian Peterson and Cedric Benson to outlast the Saints 20-17 in Baton Rouge. In spite of an erratic performance from Kyle Orton, the offense provided just enough punch at all the right times to offset some uncharacteristic defensive lapses.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Kyle Orton (12-26-137, TD, 2 INT, 1/6, Fumble) was out of sorts for much of the contest. He overthrew just about every pass longer than 25 yards, and made it possible for the Saints defenders to make uncontested plays on the ball beyond the pass routes. His first interception was a misfire to Bobby Wade on a slant. The ball was tipped up and picked off. Orton also fumbled the ball away on a blitz that got around left tackle. He stepped up in the pocket to take a sack on a play that had less to do with pressure and more to do with his not being able to locate a receiver quickly enough. An intentional grounding penalty put Robbie Gould in a long field goal situation that turned into a missed scoring opportunity. He had Muhsin Muhammad open up the sideline and threw it just out of bounds. But Orton rebounded from his mistakes to make some good plays. He hit Justin Gage for a perfect 4-yard strike from four yards out for a touchdown. He showed good touch finding Gage for a 7-yard pass between the coverage of two defenders as the first half was coming to a close. His clutch throw to Muhammad up the right sideline at the end of the game set up the winning field goal. Overall, there were some good throws, but his accuracy was so poor it nearly cost the Bears the game. GRADE: D

Running Backs

Thomas Jones (11/40, 1-minus 6) started and saw all the reps at halfback until just before halftime. Jones picked up 16 yards on a draw on 3rd and 7 from the Saints' 23-yardline to set up Justin Gage's touchdown reception. Adrian Peterson (6/58, TD, 1-3) and Cedric Benson (14/79) split carries in the second half and proved to be difference-makers. Peterson found a crack between left guard and tackle, dipped his shoulder, and ripped off a 36-yard run to set up his own 6-yard touchdown run. He shoved defenders aside as he ran with great pad level and power. He shined again in pass protection, keeping Orton secure enough to find Muhammad at the end of the game. Benson had his best game as a rookie. He appeared stacked up behind left guard and then cut back over right guard to find a huge hole and 36 yards. Benson also cut off a big block from Marc Edwards to add another 28 yards. He's starting to break some runs, which should be expected considering his talent level. However, since he hasn't played much, he's not as aware of some of the cutbacks he has available when the play is stacked at the point of attack. The signs shown in this game were very encouraging. Marc Edwards played most of the game at fullback and did well. In the fourth quarter, he took a short pass in the flat on a 3rd and 10 and came within two inches of getting the first down. Bryan Johnson, who was just activated, saw his first action of the season and accounted well for himself. With Kyle Orton having a down game, and Thomas Jones getting hurt, the running backs needed to dig down and provide the foundation for a win. They got it done. GRADE: A

Receivers

Muhsin Muhammad (3-85) had a good game. He drew two key pass interference penalties. He also leaped over a defender to snag a 33-yard pass from Orton to keep the chains moving. Muhammad added a 20-yarder at the end of the half and then a 22-yarder up the right sideline at the end of regulation to give Robbie Gould the field position he needed to kick the winning field goal. In spite of his good numbers, he was open several other times but Orton couldn't get him the ball. Muhammad dropped a slant on 1st and goal at the 8-yard line. His drop opened the door for Justin Gage (4-28, TD), who held on to a slant on the ride side for a 4-yard touchdown two plays later. Bobby Wade's one-handed attempt at a poorly-thrown Kyle Orton pass resulted in an interception. Tight end Desmond Clark had a good reception over the middle for 10 yards but also was flagged for a false start. The receivers had a solid game overall. However, there appeared to be a few plays between Orton and Gage that were either miscommunications or errors. GRADE: B-

Offensive Line

The Saints' defensive line is very quick. They disrupted some of the running plays in the early parts of the game, but eventually were worn down by the continual pounding of the Bears' line and cavalry of runners. Terrence Metcalf had a tough challenge against Brian Young, who gave him all he could handle. It was Metcalf's block on a linebacker that sprung Jones for his run on the draw. Left guard Roberto Garza was whistled for two false starts. The first one was a close call. Tackles John Tait and Fred Miller had tough assignments but held their own with only one or two exceptions. Tait had a false start and also was beaten by a blitzing Dwight Smith to his outside, which resulted in a sack and forced fumble. Miller allowed the pressure that forced Orton into intentionally grounding the football (which led to a long field goal for a miss). Center Olin Kreutz had a steady game, and ensured there was no pressure on Orton from the middle. Overall run blocking was good, and pass protection was average. GRADE: B-


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Ian Scott (2 tackles, PD) saw Antowain Smith (17/110, Fumble, 2-7) rush 42 yards up the middle on the Saints' first drive. His play gradually got better. He had a pass deflection in the second half. Tommie Harris (1 tackle, FF) had a very quiet first half. On the Saints' opening drive of the third quarter, he registered a tone-setting tackle for a loss and forced a fumble which the Bears recovered. Alex Brown (1 tackle) drew a holding penalty and joined Lance Briggs in a tackle for a loss on Aaron Stecker (13/29, 2-17). Adewale Ogunleye (2 tackles, Sack, PD, 2 TFL) had two tackles for a loss (one came on a broken play) and deflected a pass that Briggs nearly intercepted. Alfonso Boone played well against the run. Israel Idonije committed a costly 15-yard facemask penalty. Tank Johnson (3 tackles) had a pressure and was a force on goal line defense. Michael Haynes saw some action but was not a factor. Pass rush pressure was inconsistent from the line. There were some breakdowns in gap discipline against the run, which Saints' runners Aaron Stecker and Antowain Smith exploited on cutbacks. GRADE: C+

Linebackers

Hunter Hillenmeyer (4 tackles, Sack, TFL, INT, PD) had his second consecutive impact game. He registered a tackle for a loss on a 2nd and goal run. The next play after Kyle Orton lost a fumble, Hillenmeyer stepped in front of an Aaron Brooks (16-26-170, TD, 2 INT, 3-minus 6) pass in the flat for an interception. He also sacked Brooks for an 11-yard loss. Hillenmeyer was blocked at the point of attack on a 19-yard run off left tackle by Smith. Lance Briggs (11 tackles, PD) just missed an interception on a deflected pass from Ogunleye. Unfortunately, Briggs was caught over pursuing and fell victim to getting blocked on quite a few of the big ground gains. Brian Urlacher (4 tackles) had a late pressure that led to an incomplete pass. He allowed a pass over the middle to tight end Zach Hilton for a third down conversion. All three linebackers, at various times, gave up gap discipline and were made to pay for it. GRADE: C+

Secondary

Rookie safety Chris Harris (7 tackles, Sack, FR) came through with several key plays. He scooped up an Aaron Stecker fumble and ran it back 53 yards. He dropped Aaron Brooks for a 6-yard loss on a busted play and added a sack at the end of the first half. Harris also took Stecker down at the line on a well-timed run blitz. Mike Brown (2 tackles) was less of a factor in both run support and against the pass. Nathan Vasher (5 tackles, INT, PD, FF) forced the early fumble that Harris picked up. He surrendered a 16-yard completion to Donte' Stallworth (3-37, TD) to convert a third down. Vasher capped off the game by intercepting Brooks' final pass. Charles Tillman (4 tackles, PD) had a quiet day, wasn't beaten deep but was not much of a factor. Mike Green (3 tackles, FR) and Jerry Azumah were in for sub packages as was Chris Thompson. Green recovered a fumble. Azumah narrowly missed an interception stepping in front of one of numerous slant patterns that the Saints used to riddle the Bears' defense. Thompson got tripped up on a short slant to Nate Poole that turned into a 42-yard reception. For whatever reason, the Saints continually connected converted third downs on passes to slant routes against the Bears' secondary. Harris and Vasher were able to cause enough havoc to offset any medium distance coverage lapses. GRADE: B


SPECIAL TEAMS

Robbie Gould connected on two of three field goals (35, 28), while missing from 47 yards. He connected from 28 yards out in the final seconds of the game to seal the victory. His kickoffs were deep, but coverage wasn't there for him on the first one. The Saints returned the opening kickoff to the 48-yard line. In spite of playing through a calf injury, Brad Maynard had a very good game. He pinned the Saints inside the 20-yard line three times, and saved his longest punt of the year (59 yards) for the end of the game. Both Adrian Peterson and Israel Idonije were whistled for illegal blocks in the back. Jerry Azumah and Bobby Wade didn't break any long returns. Wade is still occasionally making poor decisions. He had an 8-yard return from the 4-yard line that he should have let bounce into the end zone. GRADE: B-


COACHING

The Bears nearly were ambushed by the Saints. Their discipline was lacking in many ways. They jumped offsides on offense even though the home "crowd" was very small. On offense, the draw play to Jones in the first half was an excellent call. The return to running the ball in the second half should have been the recipe in the beginning as well. The Bears came away with no points after the defense gave them the ball at the Saints' 20-yard line. Ron Rivera's defense allowed 7 of 15 third down conversions. The Saints ran the ball very well against the Bears, even though they were without their best runner. They surrendered a 95-yard touchdown drive. Ron Rivera's halftime adjustments (whatever they were—maybe a good chewing out) resulted in tightening the run defense to only 29 rushing yards on 14 carries. The bottom line is that the Bears won a game they should have won, regardless of style points. GRADE: B


GAME BALLS

Cedric Benson
Hunter Hillenmeyer
Adrian Peterson
Chris Harris
Nathan Vasher
Brad Maynard

HORNS

Kyle Orton

HARDEST HITS

Nathan Vasher and Lance Briggs on Aaron Stecker
Chris Harris on Donte' Stallworth
Adewale Ogunleye on Aaron Stecker



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