Saints hope to exorcise Bear demons
By RYAN ARENA
The Saints are off to their personal house of horrors this Sunday, that being Chicago’s Soldier Field.
If the Saints are to reverse a negative trend – New Orleans is 0-3 against the Bears in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era – let’s examine what are the keys to victory.
1 . TURNOVERS. All capped for a reason – this is the ‘it’ factor in this rivalry. The Bears don’t have the same caliber of defense as we’re used to seeing and are a more offensively driven team these days. They’ve sacked opposing passers just six times this season, and aside from Detroit their competition hasn’t been elite offensively.
That said, the Bears force mistakes, and if they win this Sunday, you can be sure that will be a primary reason — if not THE primary reason. Chicago has forced 14 turnovers already this season. New Orleans has turned it over nine times over their three losses to the Bears.
But on the flip side, the Saints have forced 10 turnovers this season and Jay Cutler is prone to giveaways.
2. Pressure Jay Cutler. It kinda goes in the “well, duh” category of victory keys, but through four games it’s been the single biggest factor in how well the Bears play. Cutler was sacked just three times through his first three games. He was sacked three times last Sunday alone, though, and he turned the ball over four times against Detroit. While Detroit only won by eight, it was a 40-16 game in the fourth quarter.
3. Limit Matt Forte. The one Achilles’ heel of the Saints defense thus far? It’s had some difficulty limiting opposing tailbacks, at least in terms of efficiency. Miami averaged 6.1 yards a carry, Arizona 5.4 a carry, Tampa Bay 4.8 and Atlanta 6.3. That hasn’t hurt New Orleans much – the Saints chased Arizona and Miami off the run after building big leads, and Atlanta seemed to abandon it early in a mad rush to score points in what most thought would be a shootout. Backs have also hurt the Saints through the passing game.
But if the Saints offense sputters early in Chicago, Forte could make life very difficult. New Orleans has the defensive backs to match up with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Martellus Bennett, but Forte figures to see plenty of work as a rusher and receiver. He’s also off to one of the best starts of his career.
Once again, the Saints have never beaten Chicago in the Payton/Brees era. However, it’s worth noting that all three of those games came before the team’s Super Bowl run in 2009; that is to honestly say, before the Saints became elite.
This will be a tough test, though, on the road against a historic nemesis. It’s on a short week, as well, after the Saints Monday night game. Furthermore, the Saints are coming off of a dominating victory, while the Bears are licking their wounds off of their worst performance of the season.
All of the ingredients are there for a Bears upset. I’m going to pick the Saints to win, though, because for the first time in this run, they come in with the better defense. The Saints also have the better offense. Nonetheless, Chicago is no gimmie and this will be a gut check for a Saints team that won’t want to be visiting New England coming off of a loss.
The Pick: Saints 27, Bears 26.