ReFo: Saints @ Bears, Week 15
There was no keeping the NFC South down last night as the New Orleans Saints rolled into Chicago and took care of business against the listless Chicago Bears to keep alive their hopes of winning the division with an 8-8 record. A late Bears touchdown drive gave the scoreline a more competitive look than the game deserved, but the key for the Saints was a solid performance to set them up in first place ahead of the visit of the Falcons next weekend.
For the Bears there are only two more games to endure before this disappointing season is over. Fans will again be left to wonder what has happened to this offense in the last 12 months. From explosive a year ago to confused and disjointed now Chicago will be looking for positives to end the season to refuel the belief that they carried into this season.
New Orleans Saints – Performances of Note
Drew Brees, QB: +4.8
Breakdown: A bizarre fumble dropping back on the third play of the Saints’ second series was a blip in an otherwise near flawless performance from Brees. Only a couple of passes were missed and even flashed his evasiveness in the pocket to keep plays alive throughout the night. The results haven’t been right this season but with Brees playing how he has for most of the season the Saints have a chance against anyone.
Signature Play: Netted the Saints’ a third down conversion at Q3 2:17 evading the grasp of Jared Allen to get out into the left flat and find Nick Toon down the left sideline for a 17-yard gain.
David Hawthorne, LB: +3.7
Breakdown: Perhaps no-one capitalized more on the confusion from the Bears offense than Hawthorne who grabbed two of his three sacks unblocked (the other cleaning up after initial pressure by Kasim Edebali) when the Bears had numbers to block him but couldn’t get the protection in the right place. Also adding a pair of stops in run defense, Hawthorne earned his highest overall grade since 2011 when he was still a Seahawk.
Signature Stat: Only Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David topped Hawthorne’s five stops this week.
Junior Galette, DE: +1.5
Breakdown: Another solid pass rushing display from Galette who snagged a positive pass rush grade for the seventh straight week. His second multiple sack performance of the season included a strip sack of Jay Cutler midway through the fourth quarter as he drove Jermon Bushrod back and worked inside to thump knock the ball from Cutler’s grasp before the QB recovered the ball.
Signature Stat: Only Robert Ayers has a higher Pass Rush Productivity score than Galette’s 12.8 this season among 4-3 defensive ends.
Chicago Bears – Performances of Note
Jay Cutler, QB: -3.1
Breakdown: Cutler is the easy target for fans and the media for the Bears’ woes and performances like this certainly won’t help his cause with some poor throws down the field overshadowing some consistent throws on shorter targets. On passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage Cutler went 13/18 for 122 yards and a score earning a +0.8 passing grade, but beyond 10 yards he was 3/9 for 60 yards all three of his picks and the late consolation score. Cutler earned a -3.3 passing grade on those deep and intermediate passes last night.
Signature Stat: Only blitzed on 13/40 dropbacks last night Cutler was sacked four times, threw an interception and completed just 5/9 passes. Though he still earned a higher NFL passer rating (77.8) than he did against a base pass rush (51.4).
Kyle Fuller, CB: -4.8
Breakdown: After some promising early-season displays, Fuller has struggled down the stretch and last night surrendered 100 yards in coverage for the second time in three games. Matching up with Jimmy Graham he gave up catches on all three targets for 56 yards while Nick Toon also went 3-for-3 in Fuller’s coverage. His only incompletions (two) came against Kenny Stills who snagged a 21-yard gain on his other encounter with Fuller.
Signature Stat: Last night Fuller extended an unwelcome streak surrendering a passer rating in excess of 100 on his targeted passes for the eighth game in a row.
Kyle Long, RG: +2.1
Breakdown: Perhaps lost amid the bigger stories of disappointment in Chicago has been a strong second season for Kyle Long, which he continued last night. Aside from two poor starts against Green Bay, Long has been extremely consistent earning positive grades in every other game and only surrendering two quarterback hits, no sacks all season.
Signature Stat: Surrendering only 15 total pressures (two hits, 13 hurries) on 589 snaps in pass protection this season Long is tied for seventh among all guards in our Pass Blocking Efficiency metric.
PFF Game Ball
A workman-like performance by the Saints was led by Drew Brees who will look to lead the Saints through these last two divisional games and cement the team’s first home playoff game since 2011.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben