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Week 8 game preview: Bears-Saints

The Bears come home and suddenly have a lot to prove to keep their season from veering off the rails.

NFL: Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

One loss for a 5-1 team doesn’t typically have the feeling of the sky falling and the season suddenly hanging in the balance.

But then again, most 5-1 teams aren’t the 2020 Bears.

After such a strong start the Bears suddenly face a tough stretch of opponents and are now coming off their worst loss of the Matt Nagy era and it feels like the season is teetering.

It may be just one loss but it’s compounded by the fact that none of this team’s shortcomings look remotely close to being figured out, the offense doesn’t look even slightly improved and the defense looks to be visibly frustrated that they’re having to carry the load.

Matt Nagy has proven he can keep the team together through some rough spots, but this is a whole new test. This really feels like a Marc Trestman-like collapse could come if Nagy can’t rally the team behind him. He better tread carefully.

Oh and by the way, the 4-2 New Orleans Saints are coming to Soldier Field Sunday on a short week.

New Orleans Saints

SB Nation site: Canal Street Chronicles

Record: 4-2, second in the NFC South

Last week: 27-24 win over the Carolina Panthers

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT, FOX

Bears all-time record against: 17-16 including postseason (15-16 regular)

Historical meetings: The Bears and Saints have met only one other time in November, week nine of the 2005 season.

The displaced Saints hosted the Bears at LSU’s Tiger Stadium in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at 2-6, which the Bears came in hot at 4-3, winning their last three in a row.

The game was a bit of a see-saw with the teams being tied at 10 at halftime.

In the second half, it remained tight. An Adrian Peterson touchdown run gave the Bears a seven-point lead that was erased about halfway through the fourth when Aaron Brooks scored on a one-yard run.

The teams traded punts but Chicago got the ball back with 4:08 on the clock. The Bears then went on a very Lovie Smith drive, running the ball six straight times, starting with a 27-yard run by Cedric Benson.

After the two-minute warning, Kyle Orton hit Mushin Muhammad for 22 yards. After a couple more runs, Robbie Gould hit a 28-yard field goal.

Nathan Vasher intercepted Brooks’ final attempt at a hail Mary and the Bears won 20-17.

Last meeting: Last October, in week 7, the Bears hosted the Saints at Soldier Field.

With Drew Brees sidelined with an injury, the Saints didn’t seem to miss a beat and Teddy Bridgewater handed the Bears their worst loss of the Matt Nagy era (at that time).

Some garbage time TDs made no difference as the Bears were already trailing 36-10. They ended the game with 17 rushing yards and Mitch Trubisky had 54 pass attempts. The Bears lost 36-25.

Injury report: The Saints listed four players on their injury report Wednesday.

Did not participate: WR Michael Thomas (hamstring/ankle), WR Marquez Callaway (ankle)

Limited: C/G Nick Easton (concussion), T Terron Armstead (elbow)

Offense: The Saints come into Chicago with their offense ranked seventh in points and 11th in yards.

Their passing offense ranks ninth and their rushing offense ranks 14th.

Led by Drew Brees (72.6 pct. cmp/1,618 yds./11 TD/3 INT) hasn’t looked to be his old self in every game this season but is still smart enough and good enough to make it work without the huge downfield shots we used to see.

Without Michael Thomas (3 rec./17 yds./0 TD), the Saints are led in receiving by RB Alvin Kamara (46/460/3), veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders (26/304/2), third year pro WR Tre’Quan Smith and TE Jared Cook (14/198/3).

Their rushing attack is also led by Kamara (75 att./364 yds./4 TD). He is spelled by Latavius Murray (63/265/2) and don’t forget about QB/TE/RB Taysom Hill (14/52/1) who can rush, receive (3/23/0) and throw (2 of 3 for 38 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT).

Sean Payton still likes to throw more than run, but the downfield stuff hasn’t been as consistent as in years past. They remain efficient though, averaging 2.84 points per drive, which ranks fifth in the NFL. They are tied for the fewest drives in the league.

Defense: The Saints defense comes into this game ranked 24th in points allowed but seventh in yards allowed.

Their passing defense ranks 17th and their rushing defense ranks fourth.

The defense is led by Demario Davis (38 tkl/2 sk/4TFL/1 PD), DE Trey Hendrickson (4.5 sk/10 QB hits/5 TFL), Cameron Jordan (2 sk/4 QB hits/3 QB hits/4 TFL), Malcolm Jenkins (1 sk/1 INT/4 PD/2 TFL), Marshon Lattimore (27 tkl/1 PD/1 TFL) and Janoris Jenkins (1 INT/2 PD/1 TFL).

The Saints don’t blitz as much as they did last year, a little less than a third of the time (28.1 percent). They rank 17th in sacks with 14. They rank fifth with fewest missed tackles as well. However, they’ve allowed the second-most touchdown passes in the league, despite ranking below average in passing yards allowed.

Key match ups: For the defense it’s shutting down Alvin Kamara. Without Michael Thomas on the field, Kamara is the cog that makes the Saints’ offense work.

Get Roquan Smith on him, get Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson on him when he’s running routes, whatever it is, you have to cover him and get him on the ground.

Get after Drew Brees, if you can, he’s only been sacked eight times.

On offense, get the running game going. The Saints have allowed opponents 100+ rushing yards this year twice, but it’s important for Chicago to not be one dimensional.

Key stats:

  • The Saints have allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league, 17
  • The Saints have the number one third down offense, while the Bears have the second best third down defense
  • A tight end has scored against New Orleans in every game this season
  • This will be the first time the Saints have played outdoors this season. The forecast says it will be mid-to-high 30s with 20-30 mph winds and gusts near 40 mph

Do you think the Bears can bounce back on a short week? Will the weather help them?