Chicago Bears film study: Is there any hope for the offensive line?
All things considered, Sunday's overtime loss to New Orleans was a huge missed opportunity for the Bears, since they did so many things well. But you probably knew that already. Here's a closer look at the coaches' film:
Line to gain
A big question right now is whether there's any hope for the Bears' injury-plagued offensive line. The answer seems to be a tepid yes.
Despite missing three starters on the offensive line once right tackle Robert Massie was hurt, David Montgomery posted his highest rushing total of the season, 89 yards on 21 carries. And the Saints rank third in the league in rush defense.
The Bears also posted their longest pass play of the season and scored 23 points. But Nick Foles was sacked five times, so while the makeshift line was encouraging, it was far from perfect.
Let's start with the highlights. The 50-yard completion to Darnell Mooney in the first half was a thing of beauty. The Bears started with a mild run fake to Cordarrelle Patterson, then the protection was perfect. Mooney and Anthony Miller both went deep, the safety slid over to Miller, so Foles threw it to Mooney.
The Bears have been trying to go deep all season, but rarely had the time. The touchdown to Allen Robinson a few plays later also featured great protection.
On Montgomery's season-high 38-yard run, the Bears put all three Saints defensive linemen on the ground, thanks to a nice push from right tackle Jason Spriggs, and Montgomery dodged LB Demario Davis to break free.
For the sacks, the Saints used a ploy a few times where a defensive linemen basically set a pick. He'd crash into a nearby Bears blocker and the player next to him would curl around on a late stunt and go through the gap created. The Bears failed to switch men a few times and fell for this trick, including on the third-quarter interception that followed the Javon Wims penalty.
Spriggs, who filled in for Massie, gave up 3 sacks. One time Davis hesitated, then ran after Foles when Spriggs moved over to block someone else. Late in the game, Spriggs was beaten on an inside move by Cameron Jordan and in overtime he couldn't hold a block against David Onyemata. Up until the final minute of the fourth quarter, Spriggs played pretty well.
But Spriggs is likely out this week on the COVID list. One thing to keep in mind is Alex Bars filled in when left guard James Daniels was first injured and did fairly well, so the Bears do have someone else to step in. Rashaad Coward took over that spot the following week.
Bottom line, the Bears' starting offensive line wasn't great to start with, so there hasn't been much drop-off when the subs come in.
Miller's time arrives
We've been talking for a few weeks here about missed opportunities with receiver Anthony Miller, who has been open in key moments. It finally clicked against the Saints as Miller had 8 catches on 11 targets. His previous high this season was 6 targets in the opener against Detroit.
The Bears had success with rub routes, particularly on the fourth-quarter TD to Mooney and the fourth-and-8 completion to Miller before the tying field goal.
Play action and quick passes helped keep the pass rush at bay and set up the big plays. Mooney or Miller on crossing patterns should be a staple of the offense. Using tight ends Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet as blockers in the run game isn't working.
Roquan on a roll
Take away that dismal Saints scoring drive in the final minute of the first half and the Bears' defense played well. The game would have gotten out of hand without the two red zone stops in the third quarter.
The pass rush didn't make much of an impact, with just 1 sack of Drew Brees, but the Saints are tied for second in the league in fewest sacks allowed with 9.
The Bears lost track of Alvin Kamara a few times, which shouldn't happen. But when he was locked in on Kamara, linebacker Roquan Smith probably played his best game in more than a year. OLB Barkevious Mingo was another standout.
Setting the tone: On the first play of the game, the Saints ran right at OLB Robert Quinn. He shook off a block by the fullback and planted Latavious Murray on his back after a 2-yard gain. There's been some alarm about Quinn's lack of production, but he did have a tipped pass and QB hit Sunday. His 2 solo tackles were, um, a season high.
Fun fact: Of the current top eight teams in rushing defense, the Bears have played six of them, including the top four.
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