Bears facing high-octane Saints QB will be no Brees
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter October 2, 2013 9:40PM
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 30: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 30, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Updated: November 4, 2013 12:22PM
Bears nickelback Isaiah Frey was ready to blitz Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on a third-and-six play from the Bears’ 13-yard-line last week at Ford Field. But he made one mistake.
Frey darted toward the line, hoping to surprise and confuse the Lions’ protection. But he mis-timed the blitz and had to hold up, as Stafford adjusted his protection. When the ball finally was snapped, Frey easily was engulfed by a Lions lineman and made no impact on the play.
‘‘He hard-counted me,’‘ said Frey, a sixth-round draft pick from Nevada in 2012. ‘‘[Stafford] had been on the same rhythm with his count the whole game. And that one play he gave me a hard count. I’ve got to be a little more patient with that. And just be a little be smarter. I’ll be ready for it next time.’’
He’ll have to be, because Saints quarterback Drew Brees not only is better at outfoxing an NFL defense than Matt Stafford is, he’s better equipped to make the Bears pay for it. Frey’s mis-timed blitz went unpunished — Stafford threw to Calvin Johnson out of the end zone and the Lions settled for a field goal. Brees will be much less forgiving.
The Bears are making a concious effort to tackle better against the Saints on Sunday than they did against the Lions last week. But Frey knows it’ll take more than that to prevent Brees from making them look even worse through the air than the Lions’ Reggie Bush did on the ground last week. They’ll have to play smarter as well.
‘‘We all have to play as smart or smarter than him,’’ Frey said. ‘‘Drew Brees is one of the best of all-time. He’s very intelligent on the field. He’ll like to look off and do things like that. We have to be ready for it.’’
Brees, who led the NFL with 5,177 yards and 43 touchdown passes last season, is as good as ever in his 13th season in the NFL. He’s fifth in the NFL in passer rating (103.8), second in passing yards (1,434) and third in touchdown passes (10). And he’s red-hot coming to Soldier Field on Sunday — he was 30-of-39 (76.9 percent) for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 144.5 passer rating vs. the Dolphins.
It’ll take more than good tackling to beat him.
‘‘The key is being smart and disguising, because that’s how they make most of their plays,’’ Frey said. ‘‘Knowing what you’re in before you’re in it. I have to be smart and make sure I don’t tip off the defense we’re running. If we’re able to do that, we’ll make a lot of plays.’’
That’s the challenge for a Bears defense still smarting from a 40-32 loss to the Lions last week. The Bears allowed 260 total yards in falling behind 30-13 in the first half — 125 rushing and 135 passing. Now they’re facing an offense ranked No. 4 in the NFL in total yards. The Saints average 420 yards and 27 points per game.
Asked what impresses him about the Saints’ offense, Bears safety Chris Conte was succinct. ‘‘Their ability to run the ball. Their ability to pass the ball,’’ he said. ‘‘They have [Darren] Sproles ... Jimmy Graham ... Marques Colston ... And their ability — [with] Drew Brees — to move safeties and find guys deep. They’re doing a great job.’’
The trick for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and the Bears defense is fixing the tackling issue without springing a leak somewhere else. The Bears missed injured defensive tackle Henry Melton last week against the Lions. Now Stephen Paea is not practicing because of a toe injury. He’s expected to play Sunday, but the Bears still were scrambling on the defensive line last week. Tackle Nate Collins played at the nose. Paea played Melton’s three-technique spot. End Corey Wootton chipped in at tackle; and rookie end Cornelius Washington and recently signed tackle Landon Cohen played for the first time this season.
‘‘I feel like as a unit, especially up front, we haven’t jelled or clicked together as much as we’d like to,’’ Wootton said. ‘‘We have different guys in there. The big thing is getting comfortable with each other. [Wednesday] was a great practice. We’re ready to go.’’