If you plan on attending this Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, you'll have to just go ahead and forgive Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and his young on-the-rise defense if they've suddenly gotten the feeling as if they've won the Pro Football equivalent of the Multi-State Powerball Lottery.
And the reason for that would be that now just one week removed from traveling up to Green Bay, Wisconsin and not having to face Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers (thanks to a broken collarbone injury that he suffered during a game the week before), the Saints this week (and at home) now get to face a rookie QB who is playing in only his 4th NFL start ever; and who is also coming off a game where he threw the ball an ENTIRE 7 times.
No — that's not 7 times in an offensive series or for one quarter, but for the length of the WHOLE game itself.
It's because of that one fact alone that you'll have to excuse Allen and the defense if the first word that doesn't come to their minds is: JACKPOT!
However, this is still the National Football League; and Allen and his rapidly improving unit will still have to be well-prepared for 23-year old Bears rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky; who despite his inexperience has led Chicago to wins in 2 of his first 3 starts as a pro after he was chosen by the Bears with the 2nd overall pick of this year's 2017 NFL Draft.
The Bears and head coach John Fox, who is well-known for his conservatism and playing things "close to the vest", has decided that the team wants to take things slowly with Trubisky's development; as the former University of North Carolina Tarheels star essentially learns how to run and operate an NFL offensive system while he's "on the job".
There's also then fact that Chicago — who just yesterday made a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers for their veteran star wide receiver Dontrelle Inman in exchange for a conditional 7th-round draft pick — don't have a whole lot of weapons to surround the young QB with, at the moment.
The Bears receiving corps has seriously lacked any proven players at the WR position since the departure of their former All-Pro WR Alshon Jeffery, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this past March in 2017 NFL Free Agency.
Since the start of their training camp back in late July, the Bears have lost starters Cameron Meredith (left knee ACL) and Kevin White (left shoulder blade) to injured reserve by Week 2. As if that weren't bad enough, veteran WR Markus Wheaton (groin) has also been sidelined.
Since Trubisky became the starter 3 games ago, the Bears wide receivers have accounted for a GRAND TOTAL of only 117 yards on 9 catches.
The Bears starting WR's are 3rd-year pro and former back-up Tre McBride, who’s been mostly used as a blocker; and undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry — who had zero targets yesterday vs. Carolina, and had only 1 target the week before that against Baltimore.
That lack of help at the WR position has forced the Bears to alter the way that they're allowing Trubisky to operate the team's offense with regard to the passing game.
Last week against the Panthers, Trubisky was sacked 4 times and was forced to scramble out of the pocket on several other occasions — which Chicago Tribune writer Steve Rosenbloom observed yesterday was what presented the Bears organization with a good indication of where the current status of their passing game is, at the moment.
Rosenbloom says that sometimes the issue for Trubisky was the pass protection. Other times, it was because he held on to the ball too long, or because his targeted WR's couldn’t get open.
And then of course, there are other considerations such as Trubisky being able to read a defense and know when he's about to be blitzed.
Rosenbloom noted that Trubisky seemed to struggle with finding an open target on plays where the Panthers defense utilized the blitz; and that perhaps it was because Trubisky simply just doesn’t even know yet what an open target even looks like in the NFL.
But yet they still managed to win; and as bad as things have looked: Trubisky has a winning record thus far (2-1) as a starter.
Now this Sunday, Trubisky will get his very first taste of playing inside of what is expected to be a wild and crazy environment inside of a sold-out Superdome; as Saints fans get to see their Black and Gold heroes for the first time since they took over the division lead in the NFC South.
Playing inside the Superdome can be a tough task for ANY NFL QB, much less a rookie making his 4th ever professional start.
So the question then becomes: will the Bears get "risky with Trubisky", and allow the young man to open things up a bit with regard to possibly throwing the ball more?
Assuming the Saints decide to "stack the box", Trubisky will likely have a very good chance at making some big plays this Sunday; and his performance (or lack thereof) could very well ultimately decide the outcome of this football game.
Allen no doubt will try to have the Saints defense try to confuse Trubisky with an array of different alignments and looks at the line of scrimmage and then bring the blitz whenever possible; especially if the Bears rookie has difficulty with communicating with his WR's thanks to a loud and boisterous Superdome crowd.
As New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill noted last week: the Saints’ blitz package is never what it actually appears to be, in part because of how Allen likes to create confusion by mixing up when the defense will employ 3 or 4-man fronts at the line of scrimmage; and the only thing you can be sure of is that New Orleans is going to try to blitz whenever possible.
Underhill says that these variety of different looks aren’t just a standard 3-4 front. Sometimes they are, but often there are three men down on the line with players in various positions from which they can either blitz or drop back into coverage.
Underhill adds that being standard would defeat the purpose. The goal of the look is to make it hard for the quarterback to figure out what is going on.
“It just creates some decision — or indecision, hopefully — in how they’re going to protect it,” Saints head coach Sean Payton told Underhill during a one-on-one interview last week.
“Who are they going to put the five linemen on? And you can move guys to spots. It’s a little blurrier picture pre-snap, I would say, possibly, for the QB. And it gives you some pressure flexibility.”
And against a rookie QB making his 4th ever start in a hostile environment like the Superdome will be this Sunday?
You can count on it.
The Bears will likely attack the Saints defense as they did the Panthers; featuring a mixture of primary RB Jordan Howard, as well as dynamic weapon and 4th-round rookie back Tarik Cohen; whom you could say is the Bears' own version of Saints dual-threat RB Alvin Kamara.
They're undoubtedly going to try to establish the running game against the Saints Front 7 to take pressure off of Trubisky, and the same Saints Front 7 which at times has had great difficulty with defending the run (their average of allowing 4.9 yards per carry ranks 2nd-worst in the League at the moment), such as during the 1st quarter last week at Green Bay.
They surrendered chunks of yardage to the Packers RB's on the game's opening drive, including an Aaron Jones 46-yard TD run that saw him run untouched into the endzone only 2 minutes into the contest. Jones had a game-high 131 rushing yards, 70 of them on that Packers opening touchdown drive.
To their credit, the Saints run defense tightened up a lot in the 2nd half, but it's still a concern and one that no doubt the Bears will seek to exploit.
But — by establishing the running game, it could also allow the Bears to have some opportunities for play-action; and give Trubisky the chance to hit on some big passing plays downfield.
The question then becomes: will Fox and his offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains (who was the Bears' QB coach previously) actually LET Trubisky have those opportunities?
Will the Bears get "risky with Trubisky" and give the rookie the chance to show what he REALLY can do against an aggressive Saints defense that has thrived on the mistakes of its opponents during their last 4 consecutive games?
Whether they do or don't could ultimately determine the outcome of Sunday's game.
And it will also likely determine just whether or not if New Orleans will leave the Superdome this Sunday afternoon, with their 5th win in a row......