Copycat League: Being New Orleans

QB Drew Brees (Getty: Andy Lyons)

As the saying goes, the NFL is a copycat league. So if that's the case, what can the Chicago Bears do to make themselves more closely resemble the Super Bowl champion Saints? Here's a three-step plan.

You can air it out yet still be conservative at the same time
Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees was sensational throwing the football for the Saints, putting together a passer rating of 109.6 in the regular season and following that up with an even better 117.0 in the postseason.

Brees was among the league leaders in all of the important categories in 2009: 363 completions (tied for fourth), 4,388 passing yards (sixth) and 34 passing touchdowns (first). Despite setting an NFL record with a completion percentage of 70.6, it wasn't all three-step-drop dinks and dunks since he averaged 8.5 yards per attempt (third), had 58 completions of 20 yards or longer (seventh) and 11 of 40 or longer (10th). But perhaps most impressive, Brees did all of that damage through the air while only throwing 11 interceptions – his TD-to-INT ratio of 8-to-0 throughout the playoffs was instrumental in bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the bayou.

Jay Cutler, on the other hand, led the league with 26 picks because he locked on to receivers and forced throws in the red zone, two things Brees simply doesn't do.

Make Hester the X-factor on offense and special teams
The Saints selected Reggie Bush out of USC No. 2 overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, probably thinking he would be the heir apparent to Deuce McAllister in the backfield and eventually get 20-25 touches per game.


RB Reggie Bush
Getty Images: Jed Jacobsohn

Nevertheless, coach Sean Payton soon realized Bush would never survive the weekly grind of being a featured back in this league, and this past season he set career lows with 70 carries as a rusher and 47 catches as a receiver. But with his rushes and receptions trending down year after year, Bush is actually more effective than ever and scored eight TDs on those 117 touches in 2009. Never asked to bang between the tackles or pick up blitzing linebackers, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry and also took better care of the football than he had in the past – just one fumble lost after a total of seven the previous three seasons.

Devin Hester is about the same size as Bush and possesses a similar ability to break ankles in the open field, so if the Bears are finally convinced Hester will never be a No. 1 receiver, line him up all over the place like New Orleans does with Bush and give defensive coordinators something to keep them awake at night.

Dial up the aggressiveness on defense any way possible
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams didn't develop a game plan designed to stop Peyton Manning, which is smart because nobody stops Peyton Manning, but Tracy Porter's pick-six was the signature play of Super Bowl XLIV.

Protecting a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Porter gambled on a quick curl route to Reggie Wayne he saw time and time again on film, and that gamble paid off to the tune of a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown and an insurmountable 31-17 advantage with 3:12 left on the clock. Had Porter guessed wrong or not come up with the ball, Wayne likely makes a long catch-and-run to potentially set up the game-tying score. Ranked in the 20s in all the major defensive categories this year, New Orleans made up for their down-to-down deficiencies by picking off 26 passes, recovering 13 fumbles and throwing the kitchen sink at the enemy quarterback in terms of blitz packages and coverage schemes.

Like the Saints, the Bears have designed their defense to thrive on takeaways – the difference is, the Saints force the action while the Bears tend to wait for the opponent to make a mistake.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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