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Story of the Game
When the Bears traded up for Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 draft and made him their franchise quarterback, it was the beginning of a long and winding road that finally paid off Sunday evening in the Superdome: Trubisky has won the NVP — the Nickelodeon Valuable Player award.
In one of the most Trubisky games you will ever find, the Bears quarterback fell back down to earth against a dominant Saints defense. The Bears finished with 9 total points, and the last six were on the game's final garbage-time drive.
It wasn’t all on Trubisky, of course. The running game couldn’t get going, producing an abysmal -.36 EPA per run, and a costly wide open touchdown drop by Javon Wims didn’t help the offense one bit.
The Bears probably needed all the unstable elements of a football game to fall on their side, but that didn’t happen. One of those areas was third and fourth down, where an unsustainably good effort on the money downs might have propelled an upset victory. Instead, the Bears' EPA per play on third and fourth downs was -.81. Somehow this was not their worst outing of the season — it was actually third-worst.
The Saints coverage unit and Dennis Allen's scheme was the main key in the third down failure for the Bears. On the 10 third down and fourth down dropbacks, Trubisky was pressured six times, but only once did a Saints player beat a Bears offensive lineman clean on those plays. The pressure was forced through Trubisky having to hold on to the football and Saints defenders looping and wrapping around to free themselves on stunts and blitzes.
Trubisky was actually more than competent on early downs, going 15 for 20 with 161 yards and only taking one sack. But the inability to sustain drives really did them in.
The Saints offense was mostly just alright for huge stretches of the game. After an early score that put them ahead, they could never pull away even though the defense continually gave the offense chances to take over the game. Drew Brees looked comfortable for the most part, but his receivers did a lot of work for him.
Of Brees' passing yards on the day, 62.5% came after the catch — his third-highest mark this season. His average depth of target was 5.1 yards, which was his third-lowest of the season. The Bears clogged the middle of the field, especially in the intermediate levels and didn’t let Brees find any of his patented seam passes.
The Saints found some space outside with Deonte Harris and Michael Thomas catching a few sail routes each. Brees shared the wealth, with Thomas, Harris and Jared Cook each being targeted seven times. Thomas’ comeback from injury saw him catch five of those balls for 73 yards and a touchdown. There is no doubt the Saints offense needs to be better next week against the Buccaneers.
Cesar Ruiz again started for the Saints at right guard, a spot he’s bee in most of the season. He played every snap in this game and only gave up one pressure in 40 pass blocking snaps.
Kindle Vildor came in to replace Buster Skrine in the slot and gave up a catch on all five of his targets but only for 30 yards. Only two resulted in first downs. Tight end Cole Kmet played 41 of 49 snaps in the game and was targeted four times.
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