Most fans who invest time watching the NFL like to see their team’s offense in attack-mode, be it through inspired creativity or rumbling bulldozer. However, there is no obligation to entertain. There is only an obligation to try to win.
In the afterglow of the Bears humble two-game winning streak it’s important to remember it’s not all about the passes attempted, the plays run or the points scored. It’s about winning and the Bears have three more victories than they are supposed to have. Who cares if it all came down to a couple of more plays than an opponent managed?
Contagious incompetence might not sound like a sustainable game plan, but all the Bears offense really has to do is complement their defense. The Bears defense has played well enough to ensure success with new-found takeaway mastery powering the team to unexpected heights.
Not bad when you consider the Bears are operating on parallel tracks this season. They are attempting to win games and preserve jobs, while also developing quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the second-overall selection in the April draft.
Trubisky, oddly, seems to be asked to do less and less each week. His completions have dropped from 12 to 8 to 4 in his three games as a starter. It’s a pattern that would leave him without a completion if it continues.
Unfortunately, the role of passenger is likely to end in New Orleans this week with the high-flying Saints capable of scoring big on offense and blitzing unmercifully on defense. The Saints have found balance between the run and pass during a four-game winning streak.
Drew Brees, more than 15 years older than the 23-year old Trubisky, has shown little sign of slowing down, even if he has thrown two interceptions in each of the last two games.
Brees makes smart decisions and gets rid of the ball quickly. He has been sacked five times on the season, never more than once in a game. The Saints have allowed the fewest sacks in the league. Since losing at Minnesota and at home to New England to open the year, the Saints have ratcheted up their attack defense.
Truth be told, the Bears need to develop, practice and perfect two different game plans this week: one to preserve a lead and another, perhaps more important one, to deal with a deficit.
Ideally, they stay in hyper-conservative mode and use their run game to eat clock, keep Brees on the sidelines and discourage blitzes. The danger comes in trying to predict what will happen if the Bears are forced to come out of their shell. They don’t seem built for comebacks.
The game marks the fourth start for the rookie quarterback which means Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen should have enough information to determine Trubisky’s strengths and weaknesses.
Trubisky will put in extra work this week on hot reads and blitz adjustments.
The Sains likely will opt to try to contain Trubisky and goad him into throwing into coverage. The passing lanes and throwing windows are very small in the NFL and they are even smaller given the Bears scarcity of weapons.
Trubisky admitted he protected the ball and took sacks rather than fumble or throw an interception in the victory over the Panthers. They were the right decisions because neither team scored in the second half.
The Saints have won by at least two scores each week during their four-game winning streak. That means they will try to build a lead and come hunting for Trubisky.
It’s uncertain if the rookie will know what do in such situations. You can predetermine some throws if everyone is on the same page.
Can Trubisky process what he sees? Can he recognize matchups and understand the way he’s being attacked? Of course, there is no need to worry about the blitz if you are running the ball well and attacking with a lathered up Jordan Howard.
It might help to use Tarik Cohen in the slot more this week to get him the ball quickly in space. Howard better make sure the old contact lenses are clean.
Football is a game of matchups and going into New Orleans with a loud crowd and a fast surface and a rookie quarterback makes it possible the Bears fragile formula for victory could be exposed. This isn’t a great matchup against a team that is twice as hot as the Bears. Maybe Trubisky can show some growth and shock the NFL
Or maybe this is one for the bulldozer. Here’s hoping they can continue to grind their way to glory.
Mike Mulligan is a special contributor to the Chicago Tribune.