Welcome back to THE VAULT, the much celebrated weekly history column where I try to remember why I still care about this team in spite of the many heartbreaks they’ve given me. I’m going to spend these next couple weeks while I’m between jobs rewriting Kanye’s magnum opus “808s and Heartbreaks” to make it about the Bears, so look for me in the FFUD “Album of the Week” section crooning over some reverb-drenched synths. My version of “Love Lockdown” is gonna be about Nathan Vasher. Million dollar idea right there.

Potential album titles:
“85 Bears and Tears” (doesn’t rhyme but I’ll make it work)
“Jim Miller is a Homophobic Idiot” (true but not as catchy)
“One Night Stands and Josh Bellamy’s Hands” (there it is)

2003, week 9 of the NFL season. The Bears limped in to this home tilt against the San Diego Chargers at 3-5, and the Chargers somehow hobbled into Soldier Field at 1-7. Bear in mind this Chargers team had Drew Brees at QB and LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield, with noted PED user and future “Crime in Sports” episode subject David Boston lining up outside next to perennial “undersized with a big heart white WR” Tim Dwight. Tim Dwight was always one of those wideouts that announcers described as “a student of the game/a gym rat/sneaky fast” which for some reason are only superlatives given to white wideouts. Whereas receivers who are nonwhite are always considered “freak athletes.” It’s weird.

Casual racial bias aside, the wildest thing about this game is the fact that DREW FUCKING BREES was benched in this game for DOUG FUCKING FLUTIE, who massively outperformed the QB who would go on to define this generation (screw Tom Brady, he’s just the best system QB of all time- Brees is the GOAT). It’s almost a fever dream to think about a Bears team led by Chris Chandler, Anthony Thomas, and David Terrell sticking it to the Chargers with two future Hall of Famers in their backfield so severely that they thought it prudent to bring in Doug Flutie.

The 2003 Bears were, you guessed it, a fucking mess. The QB carousel featured the aforementioned Chris Chandler coming in to start for Kordell Stewart for his 3rd game in a row. The 2003 Bears had hotshot Rex “Sex Cannon” Grossman on the bench as a rookie, which is kind of like having the opportunity to re-watch a movie knowing how the tragedy is going to unfold. They also drafted useless defensive lineman Michael Haynes in that first round. After that nightmare first round, they picked up Charles Tillman in the 2nd and Lance Briggs in the 3rd, which is almost “Sayers-Butkus” levels of draft success. As much as it sucks to see that the Bears could’ve drafted Troy Polamalu instead of Haynes, at least they didn’t pull a Detroit Lions and draft Charles Rogers with the 2nd overall pick, he of the multiple failed drug tests. Fun Charles Rogers fact: three career failed drug tests, four career receiving touchdowns. Trust me, I’m not trying to shit on a dude that would’ve maybe had a chance in the NFL a few years from now, when players are finally allowed to use marijuana to help with pain relief. I feel bad for those players who can’t medicate with something that isn’t a habit-forming painkiller that actually shortens people’s lives.

The Bears went on to hold off the Flutie-led Chargers 20-7, keeping LT to a measly 82 total yards on 16 carries and four catches. Drew Brees went 7-15 for 49 yards and an interception in this game, with his pick lobbed into the hands of Charles Tillman before Peanut was suplexed to the ground by the aforementioned David Boston, who looks like those cat memes where people sketch in preposterous muscles on pics of napping kitties. Tillman also downed a punt at the 1-yard line, which is always a play that gets me going. His downed punt led to a game-sealing interception of Flutie by Jerry Azumah, a regular here in THE VAULT.

Anthony Thomas led the team with 31 carries (!), 111 yards, and two scores. Honestly, as bad as those teams were, it’s refreshing to watch the old highlight videos of the Bears lining up in the I-Formation and running up the middle with success, instead of watching the offense line up in the shotgun and send the smallest player on the roster up the gut on 1st and 10 when the other team has 36 men in the box. David Terrell and Dez White each had seven catches, which would be a career day for most of the players on the 2019 squad. Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, and even my all-time favorite Bears undersized useless WR Ahmad Merritt caught a pass from Chris Chandler. Man, I miss Ahmad Merritt, who didn’t do anything in the NFL but was a BEAST in NFL Europe, catching 6 TDs for the Berlin Thunder. What a weird fucking sentence.

The Bears in 2003 finished 7-9, before finishing 5-11 in 2004 with what is considered one of the worst offenses in NFL history. Welcome to heartbreak.



Saints (5-1) at Bears (3-2)


Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

Aaaaaaand we’re back. The Bears come out of the bye and welcome the Teddy Bridgewater-led Saints into Soldier Field with a lot to prove.

The Saints arrive winners of four straight, games that can best be described as “winning ugly” – but wins nonetheless. New Orleans holds a slim lead in the NFC South on the back of this steak, but they’re no juggernaut. They rank middle of the pack in DVOA on offense and defense and really don’t do anything great, but they’ve done enough in most of their six games to eek out victories. Bridgewater is getting a lot of love for his play since Drew Brees went down, but it’s not exactly warranted. 41.2 QBR, 217 yards/game but seven TDs against two picks and only 10 sacks in a little under five full games. He’s protected the ball and moved the offense juuuuuust enough to get the job done, winning all four of his starts by one score.

Bridgewater looks like he’ll be without some of his better supporting cast on Sunday as Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook have both missed practice all week. The two rank second and third in targets, but team leader Michael Thomas will still suit up for what will be a tough matchup against Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. The Saints boast one of the most under-appreciated weapons in the league’s best punter Thomas Morstead, recent special teamer of the month of September and the honor for last week after having five punts downed inside the 15-yard line. The Saints keep winning the battle of field position, and without some key offensive weapons that will be important on Sunday.

The Bears should be ready for all this, having two full weeks to prepare and get themselves in order after the semi-shock loss in London to the Raiders. And it’s really time for Matt Nagy to show everyone what he’s got. The 2018 coach of the year spent all off-season saying this offense was all set to hit a new gear, ready to score at will and produce touchdowns while running a special defense out every week – a championship contender in every sense. The results thus far leave a lot to be desired, injuries or not. Mitchell Trubisky is back, albeit with a restrictive sling on his non-throwing shoulder, and he has as much if not more to prove than his play-caller.

Will we see the inventive offense that was promised? Don’t expect fireworks out the gate, though it’s fair to think that the offensive line should be improved after the merciful IR-ing of Kyle Long. In comes Rashaad Coward and Alex Bars to save the day, or at least save the running game some space at the line of scrimmage and, hell, maybe even getting to the second level now and then. There have been a great many plays that appeared dead before the ball made it to a running back or the QB had finished his drop back. The Bears had to know as soon as the game ended in London that the switch from Long would be made and it’s fair to expect some immediate results against an up and down Saints defensive front. The key will be executing on first and third down, and Nagy spoke to the former earlier this week. Making first down plays count, run or pass, to keep themselves out of third and long will dictate success. It’s really that simple.

Chicago’s defense and Chuck Pagano will be ecstatic to see Kamara sidelined, but Latavius Murray (remember him?) has been solid in his own right playing backup, averaging 4.3 yards/carry in his limited role. There’s plenty to be concerned about after letting Josh Jacobs run wild seemingly all over England, but containing the run game and making Bridgewater try to beat them through the air is likely to lead to success. The loss of Akiem Hicks definitely hurts, but this is where Pace can show his drafting/signings are worth it with the depth he’s created.

This is the Show Me game for Chicago and Nagy. Show me you’re that Coach of the Year, and not a Juron-esque fluke. Show me you can game plan for your young, struggling QB to be successful. Show me you can clean up the lapses on defense and stop an NFC leader on your home turf.


Prediction: Bears 19, Saints 10


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