Saints face tough test with road game against Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints are piling up wins and playing like championship contenders again. Just don’t tell

them that.

They claim there are too many obstacles in their path, a big one being their visit today to the Chicago Bears.

They haven’t won at Soldier Field since 2000, and Drew Brees’ next victory there will be his first. So excuse the Saints if

they’re feeling just a little uneasy even as they’re stomping opponents.

“Obviously, history has not treated us well in Soldier Field,” Brees said. “Obviously, we all want to go up there and play

well and get a win. I know the Bears are coming off a tough loss in the division, so they’re going to be ripe and ready to

play us. We’ll need our best, no doubt about it.”

The Saints (4-0) are playing more like

the 13-3 team of two years ago than the one that stumbled to 7-9 last

season with head

coach Sean Payton serving his bounty scandal ban. Their offense

and defense rank among the best. Brees is performing as well

as any quarterback in the league.

Still, beating the Bears is a big if, given New Orleans’ history at Soldier Field.

The last time they won there, Jim

Haslett was in his first year as coach. They’re 0-3 under Payton,

including the 2006 team’s

loss in the NFC title game. Brees is winless in four tries with

San Diego and New Orleans. He has almost as many interceptions

(six) as touchdowns (seven), and his completion percentage at the

lakefront stadium (55.7) is 10 points lower than his career


That bodes well for Chicago. This does not:

Brees ranks second to Peyton Manning in

yards passing. Tight end Jimmy Graham is second in yards receiving and

has six touchdowns,

and the Saints rank fourth overall on offense even though they’re

25th in rushing. They’ve been so good in every other area

on offense and defense that a poor ground game hasn’t hurt their


Brees threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns, two to Graham, in a 38-17 victory over Miami. The defense had four takeaways.

The Bears (3-1) are trying to pick themselves up from a 40-32 loss to Detroit. Jay Cutler coughed up the ball and defenders

missed too many tackles, and the result was the first loss under Marc Trestman.

Chicago allowed 159 yards rushing at Detroit, with Reggie Bush going for 139. Against Pittsburgh a week earlier, the Bears

allowed 379 yards passing.

“It’s an easy fix,” cornerback Tim

Jennings said. “I just think we have to get back to the fundamentals,

the basics, everybody

getting to the football, ready to break down. And make tackles. …

We had way too many (missed) tackles in the Detroit game.

I think it hurt us a lot.”

Five Things To Watch


For all the trouble the Bears are having taking down opponents, they’re

having no trouble taking away the ball. They have

14 takeaways and 55 points off turnovers, both league highs, to go

with three defensive touchdowns. That’s helped ease some

of the sting for a defense that’s allowing 384 yards per game and

ranks 20th. The Saints have been opportunistic, too, and

are tied for third with seven interceptions.


the Bears’ difficulties tackling, this could be a week New Orleans

gains some ground on the ground. The Saints ranked

sixth in rushing on the way to 13-3 seasons in 2009 and 2011, but

they haven’t clicked so far. RB Mark Ingram has missed the

last two games with a toe injury, although he’s only averaging 1.8

yards per carry. Losing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and

offensive line coach Aaron Kromer to Chicago in the offseason

didn’t help, either.


Cutler sent out a reminder last week he’s still prone to those

head-scratching, mistake-filled games. After orchestrating

two late comebacks while leading the Bears to a 3-0 record, he

threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against Detroit.

His mechanics were off, and he now has as many touchdowns (eight)

as turnovers.


Three of the Saints’ first four games were at home, and their lone trip

was to struggling Tampa Bay in Week 2. How will they

handle the noise, and can they contain an offense with as many

weapons as Chicago’s — with Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt

Forté — in a tough environment?

PUNTING PODLESH: One Bears player under the microscope is Adam Podlesh, who struggled last week and dropped to 28th in punting average (43.5

yards). Chicago auditioned six punters on Tuesday.