Tomorrow around lunchtime, the Chicago Bears will take on the New Orleans Saints in a match of football. The Saints boast a high-octane offense, and a defense that will attack you with exotic blitz packages, extreme looks, and a dash of speed.
The Bears are coming off a big win over one of the Saints primary divisional opponents, the Atlanta Falcons. The Bears dominated every facet of that game, from kickoff to end-whistle. The defense was flying, the offense moved the chains, and special teams allowed no chance for the Falcons to get on a roll.
But these Saints are different. Here's three things to keep an eye on during the game.
1. Can the Bears' young Tackles handle the edge blitz? Will the offense compensate for missing defensive backs?
This is a big key for Jay Cutler and the receivers to have any success. The Saints call a number of defensive looks, and you can expect them to test J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi early and often. For the Saints, the key will be to force those guys to commit to someone early. If they engage the guy who is directly in front of them, be it a defensive end or a linebacker, don't be surprised if a safety or nickelback comes on the blitz. The Bears will likely keep Spaeth or Davis in to help them, but if they both need help, look for a LOT of two tight end sets.
Conversely...if the Saints do use their defensive backs in their blitz packages like they often do, will Martz and Cutler compensate with play calling to take advantage of the quick slant (which the Packers absolutely abused the Saints with), and other plays designed to get the ball up and out and into a receivers hands in space.
If the tackles don't hold up, adapting will be key. If they do, then Jay has the arm, and it seems the eye, to be able to carve them up.
2. Can the Bears maintain consistent pressure on Drew Brees? Will it even matter?
Drew Brees is good. Really good. He's great at reading the defense, and getting the ball where it needs to be. He will be without some weapons, though. Marques Colston is out with a broken collarbone, and Lance Moore is still listed as doubtful with his groin injury.
As always, the key will be the Bears defensive front pressure. Peppers and Melton absolutely must get in the backfield and make Brees uncomfortable. The only problem with that is that it's very, very hard to make him uncomfortable. Melton will be going up against Olin Kreutz a lot, who's a player the Bears are very familiar with. Look for Melton to have a fair amount of success out of the middle, and Peppers should have a pretty solid time going against Bushrod for the Saints. If they can flush Brees out, they might be able to get the Brees that threw 22 picks last year.
3. S[ecial Teams Performance
Maintaing field position is crucial. In the Dome, Gould and Podlesh should be able to put the ball long most every time, but giving a short field to the Saints consistently is like signing your own death sentence--they're too good to let have the ball around mid-field all the time.
What are your other ideas for things to keep an eye out for?