Saints Spotlight: This Offense Isn’t A Brees (Sorry)

For the 5th time in six weeks, the Bears will face an opposing quarterback whose name doesn’t exactly bring anxiety-ridden nights to DC Chuck Pagano. But don’t sleep my friends; Saints backup QB Touchdown Teddy Bridgewater is more than capable. Yes, that Teddy Bridgewater, he of the knee injury which had teammates throwing up on their cleats, will most likely be the one leading the “Who Dats” into Soldier(s) Field on Sunday afternoon. In case you forgot, or have been paying too much attention to NFL officiating and LeBron James’ foreign policy, Drew Brees–a top-5 NFL QB of all time–injured this thumb five weeks ago. Brees underwent surgery, and does not expect to play this week, which brings us back to Bridgewater.

In relief of Brees, Bridgewater has gone 4-0; completing almost 70% of his passes for 7 TDs, 2 INTs, and a QB Rating of just under 100. What makes his numbers even more impressive is that his October splits are a completion percentage of 71.4%, 5 TDs, 1 INT, and a QBR of 112.4. What these numbers clearly say is that as Bridgewater is getting more comfortable as a starter, he continues to improve. It also doesn’t hurt that he is playing in one of the best systems in the history of the game.

“Hot route. Hot route. I don’t…what is hot route? Would you just go stand on the other side please?”

-John Beckwith & Jeremy Grey, Wedding Crashers

As Bridgewater has become more comfortable, he has gotten away from quick hitters and hot routes and is taking more chances downfield, a staple of a Sean Peyton’s offense. Since replacing Brees mid-game in Week 2, here’s a quick look at TD Teddy’s throws under and over 10 yards:

Week    0-10 Yards           10+ Yards  

2               24                              6

3               22                              5

4               29                              7

5               23                             11

The Saints have the best offensive line in football, so if, and of course it’s a big if, the Saints can protect Bridgewater long enough, look for Peyton to attack  longer targets more often. The Bears drop ends and linebackers are so athletic and do such a great job of zone coverage, teams are often better off attacking a Bears secondary that have been only average this season.

Michael Thomas Is A Great Receiver, And Also Could Be Your Backup Goalie

Between Mike Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Ted Ginn Jr., and Jared Cook, the Saints continue to produce other-worldly pass catching talent. Thomas is getting the lion’s share of the targets, averaging almost nine catches per game for 105 yards and 3 TDs. He currently leads the league in receptions and is second in yards. In his 11-reception, 182-yard, 2-TD performance in Week 5, Thomas lined up everywhere on the field and ran every route in the playbook. His week 5 route chart looks like 1st grader drawing with his toes:

So, what does this mean? Well, it means that in an effort to mix up defensive coverages, Thomas will line-up everywhere and run anywhere – and he’ll do it while getting over 11 targets per game.

When Thomas isn’t lighting you up, Alvin Kamara is a legit threat in the passing game. Kamara is average almost six catches per game for 8.4 yards per catch and 46 receiving yards per game. What makes Kamara so special is his ability to create big plays with his run after catch capabilities, which were very much on display week 3:

How can the Bears slow Kamara down? Well, they may have caught a break this week as Kamara is dealing with lower leg injury and will be limited in practice leading up to Sunday.

Teddy Ginn Jr. and tight end Jared Cook also provide some respectable options in the passing game as both average over 10 yards per catch. Both of these guys will obviously become more involved in the offense if Kamara is limited or cannot go at all.

So, what will the Saints and Bridgewater be able do against the Bears on Sunday?

The answer to this question relies solely on the heath of Alvin Kamara. If Kamara can play, the Bears are in trouble. Mike Thomas is going to have a big day regardless of Kamara’s health, but the difference between your 2nd receiving option being Kamara and being Ginn Jr or Cook is seismic. Bridgewater and the Saints are going to score, not as much as a Drew Brees led offense, but enough to win…but only if Alvin Kamara is healthy and can be Alvin Kamara.

Saints 24 – Bears 16


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