How the Bears could upset the Saints in the dome for a playoff win:
The Bears are coming off a near 20-point loss in a very winnable game against the Packers, which they essentially lost because they only converted one touchdown on five redzone trips.
If it weren’t for a Cole Kmet fumble in friendly territory and a very late pass interference call on a 4th down fade down the field to Davante Adams, this game could have honestly gone any which way. This game would eventually prove mathematically insignificant for the Bears, as the Rams would win against the Cardinals.
Key #1: Stretch the field vertically on offense
The Bears cannot afford to call plays scared like they did last week against the Packers for most of the game. There has to be an attempt to take shots down the field, something we didn’t see any of until there were three minutes left and a two score game in Green Bay. The Bears have so many guys that can go up and grab a 50/50 ball, including one of the best, if not THE best at it, Allen Robinson, who ranked first in contested catches in both the 2020 and 2019 seasons among pass catchers.
Even excluding Allen Robinson, the Bears have tons of deep ball threats, including Anthony Miller, who has been killing defenses all year on hook and seam routes, most famously catching a game winning pass against the Lions in the opener. Not to mention that Darnell Mooney can take the top off of every defense with his elite 4.38 speed and elite ball tracking skills, and even Javon Wims whose bread and butter was fades towards the pylon at Georgia during their National Championship run.
Key #2: Stop the run on early down situations by utilizing Eddie Jackson
This was a key for the Bears last week, which didn’t happen with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams practically having their way all game, especially when the Bears lost their middle linebacker Roquan Smith, who is in the midst of an all-pro worthy season. The Bears will likely be without Smith this Sunday, as his injury did not look good to say the least. The Bears could help out their run defense that has been taking hits all year, missing both Eddie Goldman and Roquan Smith by dropping Tashuan Gipson into the box on pre-snap looks and using single high safety looks.
Single high safety looks either cover three or cover one, a look that Eddie Jackson is elite at and probably the best in the NFL at. Jackson can truly cover sideline to sideline on an every play basis due to his elite speed and elite instincts. Not only this but the Saints are pretty famous for not taking shots, especially when Drew Brees is under center, so the risk of getting burnt beat deep is minimal when you take into account that our center fielder, Eddie Jackson will be helping out back there.
Key #3: Stay aggressive on 4th down
After staying aggressive on 4th down against the Packers, the Bears need to keep the ball rolling after converting four out of their five 4th down attempts. Even though the Bears went for it five times, there’s still room for improvement after the Bears elected to kick field goals on two different 4th and 2 instances, one of them on the Packers 2. Although the Bears have been getting more aggressive on these downs, they rank in the middle of the pack when “going for it when they should.”
A model made by Ben Baldwin shows how often teams go for it when they should. The Bears are at least making progress in that category after ranking dead last in this model just a couple weeks ago. Long story short, the Bears cannot expect to win games against better teams without scoring touchdowns and settling for field goals, especially when they’re 2 yards from a first down.
Side Key: All hands on deck
This is a playoff game, you can’t just sit there and get punched (which you will if you’re playing a good team). All hands should be on deck, including the hands of Nick Foles who is famous for being the best reliever on the market. If Mitchell Trubisky fails to get the offense rolling, like last Sunday, Matt Nagy needs to be ready to go to his professional quarterback in Nick Foles.
Last Sunday, Mitchell Trubisky failed to push the ball downfield, as he was 2 for 7 on passes of 10 or more airyards with an interception. This is not a one time thing either, he sits at 37 of 66 for 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions on passes 10-19 yards downfield, and 5 for 30 with 3 interceptions and 2 touchdowns on passes 20+ yards downfield. Nick Foles is a much better gunslinger than Mitch for lack of a better term, and Matt Nagy shouldn’t be afraid to put in his closer if this game goes south fast.
Even at middle linebacker, this should be a recurring theme if Roquan Smith is not able to suit up, as Josh Woods looked absolutely lost on Sunday filling in for Smith. Although a full week of practice with the first team might change this, the team cannot afford to have a weak link and shouldn’t be afraid to go to Joel Iyiegbuniwe, a 3 year vet, if Woods is having a bad game.
Even though the Bears had a rough regular season, coming out with a record of 8-8, they have a chance to start over clean this postseason. The Bears just have to win 4 games to bring home a second Super Bowl to Chicago, the same amount that every other playoff team has to win besides two, and don’t forget that anything can happen.