Joniak: Keys To Bears-Saints

Chicago hosts New Orleans at 3:25 p.m Sunday.

Jeff Joniak
October 18, 2019 - 5:25 pm
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(WBBM Newsradio) The Bears (3-2) host the Saints (5-1) on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. Kickoff comes at 3:25, and the game can be heard on WBBM Newsradio 780.

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Let's break down the keys to the game.

Offense

-- In his expected return from a left shoulder injury, starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky needs confidence in his protection, his receivers and in his legs.

-- Not only does Trubisky need completions, he needs completions for first downs. It means receivers have to break a tackle and get some yards after the catch on a really good Saints defense. 

-- Scoring points has been a season-long issues for the Bears, so it comes as no surprise that they're 30th in the NFL in red-zone plays with just 29. They have to keep drives alive against the Saints to increase their chances at scoring on a unit that's allowing only 16.8 points per game over the last month.

-- Bears coach Matt Nagy wants increased production on first down. He views it as critical. As it is, Nagy isn't getting the most out of his play sheet due to down-and-distance issues. It's worth noting the Saints have held their last three opponents to fewer than 60 plays. The Bears would like to run more than that to help get a win.

-- The Saints have one of the best defensive lines in the league. They get after it, sparked by the relentless effort of defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. They've combined for 58 pressures, eight sacks and 22 hits on the quarterback. It will be a big day for Bears offensive tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. 

Defense

-- Playing without defensive lineman Akeim Hicks didn't hurt the Bears in a win against the Vikings on Sept. 29, but it in a loss to the Raiders on Oct. 6. The Saints will want to establish the run with veteran running Latavius Murray, who will replace the injured Alvin Kamara. Zach Zenner also could also be a factor. Limiting the Saints' running game includes effective open-field tackling on screens and dump-offs.

-- Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will hold on to the ball looking for a developing route. So when that happens, the Bears' pass rush needs to get home and finish.  

-- Saints receiver Michael Thomas is the team's top third-down and red-zone threat and a tough matchup for any foe. He's always a player to watch. He will line up at different spots across the formation to avoid double coverage. He's outstanding after the catch, so again, tackling is important. 

Special teams

-- The Saints are the best special teams unit the Bears have played so far. They're solid everywhere. 

-- Saints kicker Will Lutz will be making his Soldier Field debut. One of the best young kickers in the league, Lutz is 13-of-14 on field-goal attempts this season and has good range.

-- Punters Pat O’Donnell and Thomas Morstead will be a battle to watch. There's a lot at stake in regards to field position and coverage.  It figures to be a low-scoring, tight game that could turn on what happens on fourth down.   

-- Morstead challenges the patience of a punt returner by pinning them deep and to the sideline, which has created the second-highest number of fair catches in the league. O’Donnell must do the same dealing in with explosive Saints rookie Deonte Harris, who's a threat to score on every return. 

Intangibles

-- Give the anger edge to the Bears, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Several players have said as much after the way the Raiders beat the Bears in London.

-- In their two defeats, the Bears have committed 20 penalties for 182 yards, with 86 yards nullified. They have to play a cleaner game to beat the Saints. 

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.