Bears vs. Saints: What to Watch 4
After getting stymied by Packers’ All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, Bears WR Allen Robinson will face another tough test against Saints Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore on Sunday.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson has been the Bears’ most consistent offensive player this season, with 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns. But he met his match last week against Packers All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, who held Robinson without a catch until late in the third quarter. A week after Robinson had 10 catches for 103 yards against the Jaguars, he finished with two catches for 37 yards against the Packers.
Facing Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore on Sunday might be a breath of fresh air. Lattimore is outstanding; he has made the Pro Bowl in three of his four NFL seasons. But Robinson had six receptions for 87 yards against the Saints in Week 8 and burned Lattimore for a 24-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 10-3 lead in an eventual 26-23 overtime loss at Solider Field.
“I’ve played against Lattimore a couple of times in my career, so I have a good feel for him . . . for what he likes to do,” Robinson said. “He’s a great player in this league, so it’s going to be a battle out there. I just go out there and do what I do.”
In the overtime game Nov. 1, the Bears’ defense held the Saints to one touchdown in four trips to the red zone and allowed just 2 of 13 third-down conversions — ranking first in the NFL in both categories.
In the eight games since, the Bears rank 31st in both categories, allowing 17 touchdowns in 23 trips to the red zone (73.9%) and 49 of 96 third-down conversions (51%). It will be tough to win if either of those trends doesn’t sharply improve Sunday.
Player to watch
Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller — an enigma since the Bears traded into the second round to draft him in 2018 — has been overshadowed by fifth-round rookie Darnell Mooney this season. In fact, Mooney had 13 targets against the Packers while Alexander was shutting down Robinson.
But with Mooney out for Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, Miller will be the secondary receiver threat against the second-seeded Saints. He’s fully capable — he had eight receptions for 73 yards against the Saints in Week 8 — and always has big-play, difference-making potential when he gets his hands on the ball. But he hasn’t done that consistently enough this season.
Facing the Saints in a playoff game at the Superdome generally is a daunting task, although the Vikings managed it well last year in a 26-20 overtime victory. With fewer than 5,000 fans expected because of coronavirus regulations, the Bears at least won’t have to battle the intimidating crowd noise that often makes it difficult for road teams to run their offenses. Everybody has a fighting chance in domes this season.