Bears film study: Winning playoff formula starts with good health

  • New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is always a threat, but it's the Saints' defense that has been extra dangerous this season. Here Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore breaks up a pass intended for Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney in their Nov. 1 game at Soldier Field.

    New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is always a threat, but it's the Saints' defense that has been extra dangerous this season. Here Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore breaks up a pass intended for Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney in their Nov. 1 game at Soldier Field. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/5/2021 5:40 PM

Bears film study is here to remind you the Bears should have beaten New Orleans in Week 8 and the Minnesota Vikings won a playoff game in the Superdome last season. Let's check the relevant coaches film:

Saints elsewhere: New Orleans got a reputation for being an offensive juggernaut with QB Drew Brees, but the Saints are all about defense now. They ranked fourth against the rush and fifth against the pass this season.

 

At the same time, the Bears were able to run the ball in the Nov. 1 game at Soldier Field. David Montgomery finished with 89 yards, his highest total of the season to that point. And that was with Cody Whitehair out, while RT Robert Massie went down with an injury early in the game. Nick Foles was sacked five times that day. In theory, the Bears' offensive line is in better shape now.

The defense, led by Roquan Smith, did a nice job of keeping Saints RB Alvin Kamara under control. Kamara got loose for one big 47-yard pass play, but Smith wasn't involved in that one.

Obviously, the injury report is going to be huge. Kamara is on the COVID list but might be available Sunday, Smith left the Green Bay game with an injury and didn't return. New Orleans WR Michael Thomas, who didn't play in the first meeting, is trying to come back from a long-term ankle issue. And it goes without saying the Bears really need CB Jaylon Johnson, CB Buster Skrine and WR Darnell Mooney on the field.

Red zone woes: The Bears again had a couple of red zone trips against Green Bay and settled for field goals. The sequence after Mooney's 53-yard catch in the third quarter was especially painful.

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Montgomery lost a yard on first-and-goal at the 9, then a poorly designed bubble screen to Mooney had no chance, and on third down a dump off to Montgomery didn't reach the end zone.

Intersecting routes is one way to get guys open, and leave it to the Packers to demonstrate how it's done. To cap off Green Bay's first drive of the game, TE Robert Tonyan and WR Davante Adams ran dual crossing patterns, with Adams getting in Duke Shelley's way just enough to give Tonyan an extra step for the 3-yard TD.

Actually, Adams was more open on this play, but maybe Aaron Rodgers wanted to give McHenry native Tonyan a score in his home state.

I do not understand why the Bears don't run plays like this. They utilized TE Jimmy Graham with success early in the season as a big end zone target. Now they usually just have five receivers run straight lines into the end zone and throw it up, hoping Allen Robinson can make a play. Not working.

Adventures in coverage: One riveting question from Sunday is how did Marquez Valdes-Scantling, arguably Green Bay's fastest receiver, end up being covered by LB Danny Trevathan on that 72-yard touchdown in the second quarter?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The answer is Green Bay came out with an empty backfield and five receivers. No big deal, the Bears had five defensive backs on the field. Except, the Bears rarely blitz but decided to send Shelley on a corner blitz on this play. So that left four DBs against five receivers and Trevathan had to slide over to get MVS and lost the foot race by a wide margin. For his part, Shelley got to the QB in time to put a soft bump on Rodgers after the pass was gone.

Why the Bears didn't check out of the blitz when they saw the formation is anyone's guess. Robert Quinn lined up directly across from Valdes-Scantling, but he rushed the passer instead of putting a bump on MVS, which might have helped a little.

Another interesting case was the fourth-and-three pass interference on Green Bay's first drive, Shelley against Adams. Adams lined up in the slot and was covered by Shelley, why Valdes-Scantling was right next door on the outside, covered by Kyle Fuller. Why didn't Bears defenders just switch since Adams is the Packers' best receiver and Shelley has struggled in coverage?

In the second half, Valdes-Scantling nearly had another touchdown when he got behind Shelley and dropped a perfect pass from Rodgers. This play was unusual because the Bears play their corners on sides. If you're looking from behind the defense, Fuller is always on the left, Johnson or his replacement on the right. On this play, Fuller actually followed Adams to the right side. The Bears never do this.

But we have the answer: Rodgers was going to pick on Shelley no matter what receiver he covered.

Random thoughts: Kudos to OT Rashaad Coward, benched a few weeks ago, for coming in as an extra lineman and throwing a nice block on Montgomery's first TD run Sunday. ... Likewise, last week I suggested rookie OLB Trevis Gipson should focus on bulking up for next year, but he actually got a hit Sunday on Rodgers, one of the few times the Bears got near the Packers' QB in two games. Getting a rush on Brees would be great, but it's probably not going to happen. The Bears are 17th in QB sacks and the Saints don't give up many.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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