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Film study: Highs and lows of Bears’ 26-23 loss to Saints

The Bears showed everything people love and hate about them in a frustrating defeat. This week’s film study scrutinizes some of their best and worst moments.

Allen Robinson’s 24-yard diving catch for a touchdown from Nick Foles is in the running for the Bears’ prettiest offensive play of the season.
Allen Robinson’s 24-yard diving catch for a touchdown from Nick Foles is in the running for the Bears’ prettiest offensive play of the season.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

The Bears are the worst third-quarter team in the NFL, and it’s no surprise that’s when they surrendered their lead in a 26-23 overtime loss Sunday to the Saints.

The Saints got two field goals in the third quarter, plus a touchdown just before halftime and another to open the fourth quarter, as they surged from a 13-3 deficit to a 23-13 lead. There’s a lot to dig into in the film review, starting with the anatomy of that 20-point swing:

Defensive collapse

The Bears’ defense has allowed the eighth-fewest points in the NFL and held the Saints to seven points below their average through regulation. If the offense was average or better, that would be enough. But with an offense this bad, their defense better be perfect.

It hasn’t been. Perfect — or close enough to it — is what they showed in 2018. This isn’t that.

Arguably their most costly lapse was allowing quarterback Drew Brees to lead the Saints on a 68-yard touchdown drive in 1:36 just before halftime to pull them within 13-10.

‘‘Knowing that we’re getting the ball to start the third [quarter], and we gave up that touchdown there . . . ,’’ coach Matt Nagy said, leaving the sentence unfinished. ‘‘We were doing a great job on ‘D’ the whole time, and then they just kinda chunked away and got that touchdown at the end. That was big.’’

The Bears had that threat neutralized for a moment after outside linebacker Khalil Mack sacked Brees, and the Saints stumbled into third-and-13 at their own 40. That scenario should be a victory for the Bears every time.

Instead, Brees hit running back Alvin Kamara behind the line of scrimmage, and defensive back Sherrick McManis couldn’t stop him for a loss. Left guard Andrus Peat hustled to the outside to block McManis just enough to spring Kamara free. He ran 12 yards through the middle of the defense.

Then the Saints converted fourth-and-one on a toss left to Kamara.

That was a risky call by coach Sean Payton, but his team blocked it far better than the Bears did on a similar play against the Rams the week before. Linebackers Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith weren’t fast enough to get to Kamara, and tight end Josh Hill took safety Tashaun Gipson — the one with the best shot at making a stop — out of the play with an expert blocking performance.

A few plays later, cornerback Jaylon Johnson was playing behind tight end Jared Cook, who shook him with a quick fake to get open for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Terrible third quarter

That touchdown before the half hurt, and the Bears spiraled from there. Their offense gained 43 yards on 13 plays and self-destructed with penalties that left the Bears with net advances of zero, minus-10 and three yards on their three possessions.

They went backward on five plays, gained only a yard on two and had an incompletion and interception.

The Bears now have been outscored 49-7 in the third quarter.

Explosive drive early

It wasn’t all bad for the Bears’ offense, which put up its third-highest point and yardage (329) totals of the season.

The high point was an 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that took just 2:28 and featured a 50-yard pass to receiver Darnell Mooney and a 24-yard strike to receiver Allen Robinson for the score.

In the last four seasons, the Bears have pulled off an 80-yard-or-more touchdown drive in 212 minutes or less only three times.

Running back David Montgomery’s five-yard run on first down set up the Bears to be completely unpredictable on second down. Mooney faked outside, then got a great jump on cornerback Janoris Jenkins inside and had him beat after about six yards.

‘‘They like to bury you, let you go outside and just push you to the sideline,” Mooney said of the Saints’ corners. ‘‘I took advantage of that and then gave them something outside. He went for it, and I took my release inside.’’

Quarterback Nick Foles’ throw was a little behind him, but Mooney had enough space on Jenkins to slow up and still make the catch. Had Foles led him, Mooney might have gone 75 yards for the score.

Foles’ pass to Robinson for the touchdown was more precise. Robinson worked cornerback Marshon Lattimore toward the inside, then raced away and made a diving catch in the end zone.

Graham goes ghost

Tight end Jimmy Graham had two catches for 13 yards despite being second on the team with seven targets and was so down on himself that he tweeted an apology after the game.

‘‘I wasn’t good enough,’’ he wrote. ‘‘I let my team, city and myself down. I own it. I will be better.’’

Graham is definitely an upgrade over everyone the Bears had at tight end last season, but he’s proving to be one-dimensional. The Bears keep him running short routes, for the most part, which is likely because his speed isn’t what it used to be. He’s still big and still can jump, but outrunning people is tough at 33.

Graham has seven catches for 40 yards and four touchdowns in the red zone this season, but he has only 22 receptions for 207 yards and no touchdowns otherwise.

Trubisky debuts as wildcat

Just when it seemed as though Nagy was out of ideas, he pulled one out of his back pocket and sent benched quarterback Mitch Trubisky in as the wildcat against the Saints late in the first quarter.

Nagy hinted the main purpose of his move is to create one more thing for upcoming opponents to worry about, but this actually might be useful. In his best overall season — 2018 — Trubisky chipped in 30.1 yards rushing per game at an average of 6.2 yards per carry.

Trubisky got three yards running to the left, and the combination of his athleticism and the potential of a pass could be an occasional spark for an offense that desperately needs one.