Against all odds and perhaps against all logic, the 5-8 New Orleans Saints are still very much in the hunt for the NFC South title, and they’ve done so in spite of some poor performances in recent weeks by quarterback Drew Brees.
Sure, he’s had the occasional great game, like he did when he threw five touchdowns and no interceptions against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13, but far more often lately we’ve seen a Brees that can’t quite lead his team over the top. The Saints have lost four of their last five games, and in those four losses Brees has eight touchdowns and four interceptions.
The low point came in Week 14 against the Carolina Panthers. On home turf with an opportunity to pull out ahead in the division, the Saints laid a huge egg, and Brees was one of the primary culprits. He only threw for 235 yards in the game, and the Saints were plastered in a 41-10 drubbing at the Superdome.
On Monday night, Brees will be looking for a reversal of fortune against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Bears have been savaged by opposing passing games to the tune of 265.5 yards per game so far this season, and they’re coming off of a game where Tony Romo only threw for 205 yards, but he completed 21-of-26 pass attempts for three touchdowns in a huge victory for the Dallas Cowboys.
For Brees, this game has to look particularly appetizing. The Bears not only have trouble containing physical wide receivers on the outside of the field (Marques Colston), but they also have difficulty in covering big tight ends over the middle of the field as well. That was evident in their struggles against players like Rob Gronkowski, and it could become a huge issue against the Saints as Jimmy Graham looks to bounce back after a couple of rough games of his own (just three catches over the past two contests).
The big question in whether or not the Bears will be able to neutralize those threats will be whether or not they allow Kyle Fuller to get physical on the outside with receivers. They’ve been having him play off the receiver regularly during this recent stretch of games, and guys like Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant have absolutely been eating the rookie for lunch. Letting Fuller get back to his style of play, which involves physicality and taking advantage of his strength off the snap, could go a long way toward helping the Bears limit what Brees can do.
Ultimately, the other formula for success for the Bears could come down to simply limiting the number of times Brees has the ball in his hands. That would involve getting their own offense going, but as we’ve seen this season, that’s far easier said than done in year two of the Trestman regime.