Bears-Saints clash showcases high picks Trubisky, Lattimore
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore have been on a midseason collision course for months now.
Ever since Chicago made a surprising, aggressive and potentially risky trade to acquire Trubisky second overall in last spring’s draft.
Lattimore, the consensus top cornerback in the 2017 draft, was widely seen as a likely top-10 pick. But after Chicago shook up the top of the first round , Lattimore was still available when the Saints — who never thought he’d last until their 11th overall pick — leapt at the opportunity to snag the former Ohio State defensive star.
“Perfect,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who believes his success as a pass rusher this season has been augmented by Lattimore’s coverage skills. “Hopefully he picks (Trubisky) off this week.”
Both Trubisky and Lattimore now occupy prominent starting roles on opposite sides of the ball for teams that have played well lately, and who’ll meet Sunday in the Superdome.
Chicago (3-4) has won two straight and has just one three-point loss to NFC North Division-leading Minnesota since Trubisky took over for veteran Mike Glennon as starter in Week 5. The Saints (4-2) have ridden a four-game winning streak to the top of the NFC South.
Lattimore quickly has emerged as New Orleans’ top cornerback. He has one interception, which he returned for a touchdown, along with a forced fumble and five passes defended in five games. The Saints generally have him covering opponents’ primary receivers, none of whom have had a good day against him.
“It’s fair to say he was probably the No. 1 corner in 90 percent of the (draft) boards in the league” last spring, Bears coach John Fox said. “He is long. He has length. He has speed. I think he’s transitioned really well into the Saints’ defense and they’re doing a good job of teaching him.”
The Saints, who ranked no better than 31st defensively in each of the previous three seasons, needed a player such as Lattimore.
Lattimore isn’t lacking in confidence, saying his goal is to become a “Darrelle Revis-type” cornerback whose presence dissuades opponents from throwing anywhere near him.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be great,” Lattimore said. “If a quarterback is not looking your way, that’s a great thing.”
Trubisky hasn’t exactly aired it out. He threw only seven times in last week’s victory over Carolina, in which the Bears scored both of their touchdowns on defensive plays. Still, he has minimized mistakes and demonstrated potential while completing half of his 48 passing attempts.
“I don’t care if I throw zero passes if we win,” Trubisky said. “I’m confident in my abilities and what we have with this offense and where we’re headed.
“We’re going to continue to get better. I’m going to make sure of that.”
Here are some other story lines in the Bears-Saints matchup:
FAMILIAR FACE: The game marks Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks’ return to New Orleans, where he began his NFL career as a third-rounder in 2012 and remained until being traded to New England in 2015. He joined Chicago a season later and this season has six sacks, seven tackles for loss, eight QB hits and a forced fumble.
“He’s a disruptive player. He makes a ton of plays,” Saints QB Drew Brees said. “The biggest compliment I can give to somebody is when you turn on the film and notice a guy like that.”
ONE-TWO PUNCH: Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara both have been effective as runners or receivers and last week each had 100 yards from scrimmage in the same game. Kamara is second on the Saints with 28 catches and Ingram is third with 24.
“Both guys can do everything,” Brees said. “When you’re able to mix and match the backs ... and saying no matter what we’re running, we feel comfortable with that guy in the game, that’s a good thing.”
GROUND OFFENSIVE: The Bears have run the ball on nearly 65 percent of offensive plays during the past three games, going 2-1. During the first four games when Glennon was at QB, Chicago passed on 59 percent of offensive plays and lost three of four.
The lone game Chicago won during the first four games, they passed on only 24 of 62 total offensive plays, meaning the Bears are 3-1 when running more than passing.
STREAKING SAINTS: New Orleans hasn’t merely won four straight, but took three of those victories by double digits before winning by nine — despite two turnovers — in Green Bay last week. New Orleans hasn’t won like this since its most recent playoff season in 2013.
“I’m not going to label anything yet. We’re only six games into a long season. We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Brees said. “Winning feels good. The main thing you have to ask yourself is: Are we playing our best football? I don’t think we’re playing our best football yet.”