By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter
7:36 PM CDT, September 18, 2011
NEW ORLEANS — Last year, the Bears waited until their off week at midseason to have a meeting about how the offense was being run.
Is Week 3 a good time to schedule one for 2011?
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz brought one of his pass-happy game plans from early last season with him to the Superdome and the result was a beating for quarterback Jay Cutler that left him bruised and struggling to talk afterward, the result of being kicked in the throat in the third quarter.
The Bears ran the ball only 12 times, tying for the second-fewest rushes in franchise history. Combine lopsided play-calling with shoddy safety play and it's no surprise the Saints trounced the Bears 30-13 Sunday before a crowd of 73,019.
An emotional week for the Bears (1-1) following the unexpected death of Brian Urlacher's mother didn't end well. He opted to keep the discussion to football afterward.
"Don't get me wrong," Urlacher said. "This was a real tough game to play today. But I went out there and gave it my all."
It was reminiscent of the loss in the Meadowlands a year ago, when Cutler was knocked out with a concussion after being sacked by the Giants an NFL-record nine times in the first half. This time, he made it all the way through, and things didn't snowball until the second half after rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi was lost to a right knee injury right before halftime, and the Bears ran the ball just two more times. Carimi will have an MRI Monday.
The offense was already playing with a substitute at right guard in Chris Spencer, and when Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had a doubt, he sent an extra blitzer. It worked in the second half when Cutler, who completed only 19 of 45 passes for 244 yards, was sacked six times, twice by safety Roman Harper and twice by defensive end Junior Galette.
Ten of Cutler's completions were to running back Matt Forte, who carried only 10 times for 49 yards, and 21 passes were intended for either Forte or slot receiver Dane Sanzenbacher as outside threats Johnny Knox and Devin Hester were taken out of the game by a Saints secondary missing starting cornerback Tracy Porter. Every blitz represented a chance to make the Saints pay, but the Bears couldn't.
The Saints' goal was to avoid pressure from the Bears' front four by having Drew Brees unload the ball quickly. He was accurate, and his patience for the big play was rewarded when he hit a streaking Devery Henderson for a go-ahead, 79-yard touchdown in the second quarter as Major Wright was late reacting. New Orleans (1-1) mixed in an effective ground game that produced 118 yards, and converted 8 of 17 third downs.
The Bears forced a three-and-punt to open the third quarter, and Cutler hit passes to Forte and Knox to get the Bears to the Saints' 20-yard line, where the drive stalled after three consecutive incompletions. Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal brought them within 16-13, but that's when a close game got away from the Bears.
Turk McBride blew past Bears tight end Kellen Davis to sack and strip Cutler to set up a short field, and Brees (26 of 37, 270 yards) hit Robert Meachem for a 4-yard touchdown pass. The Saints followed with a 14-play drive that took 8 minutes, 1 second and ended with Darren Sproles' 12-yard touchdown reception.
As the Bears struggled to get back in it, the Saints kept bringing edge pressure, and Cutler failed to make them pay with hot reads. It was a bad game for the play-caller and the passer.
"Probably going to be pretty sore," Cutler said.
Did he think there needed to be more handoffs?
"You have to talk to Mike about that," Cutler replied. "You get in a hole like we were down two, three scores, you're going to have to throw the ball a little bit. I think we have to get Matt going early on. We have to set the tone with him and get the ball to him because he's obviously one of our better players."
Forte did get going early. He ripped off a 42-yard run on the first play of the second possession. That started an 11-play, 87-yard drive that ended with Cutler tossing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sanzenbacher to stake the Bears to an early 7-0 lead.
It's inaccurate to blame unbalanced play-calling on a big deficit. When the Bears pulled within three in the third quarter, Martz had called 27 passes and 10 runs.
"Can't give you any magical answers today," coach Lovie Smith said.
Maybe he can call a meeting for sometime Monday.
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