Bears-Saints Breakdown

Although the Bears are a run first team, the offense will still look to challenge the New Orleans secondary down field. The defense will have their hands full with the playmakers the Saints have in the passing game, starting with QB Aaron Brooks.

BEARS GAME PLAN
The Bears showed last week that they are increasingly more willing to throw the ball downfield, especially against eight-man fronts. That may not be the case with big-play rookie WR Mark Bradley out of the lineup, though.

"We've been looking all year to get that other guy opposite Moose to give us some big plays," said offensive coordinator Ron Turner. "We finally got some on Sunday. Now Mark goes out. It definitely hurts to lose that speed."

The Bears are still expected to base their attack on the run, but rookie Cedric Benson should play a bigger role considering the minor injuries that have been hampering starter Thomas Jones. However, that's news to Jones.

"Obviously I'm getting the bulk of the carries because I'm producing every week," he said. "And I don't think that will change for any other reason unless I'm not producing. So the only reason why they would probably get more carries is if I wasn't in there."

Since the Bears still consider the Saints to have a potent running game even without Deuce McAllister, they will focus on stopping the ground game, which they have done with great success ever since the season opener. The Bears have held six straight opponents to less than 100 rushing yards.

"The offensive line doesn't get enough credit," said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. "They're big guys, they move, they move the front line very well. I think if they can have some success moving the football then the playaction game becomes very dangerous."

The Bears have been able to put pressure on the quarterback over the past few weeks without the use of the blitz. Considering Aaron Brooks is able to make plays with his feet and arm, the Bears would prefer not to have to send additional men to create pressure.

"If you're getting the rush up front, you can sit back and play your signature coverage," Rivera said. "If not then you've to try do something different, be a little more creative and by doing so you do put yourself at risk."

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

  • Saints wideouts Donte Stallworth and Joe Horn against Bears cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher. The duo is tied for the team lead with three interceptions each.

    "They have an opportunity to threaten us deep so that'll be something that we try to guard from this weekend," Vasher said.

  • Saints left ends Darren Howard and Will Smith, who have combined for 7 1/2 sacks, vs. Bears RT Fred Miller, whose forte is run blocking.

  • Bears RB Thomas Jones, who is having a career year, vs. the Saints' run defense, which is ranked No. 28.

    SAINTS GAME PLAN
    The Saints have to do a better job in red-zone offense, assuming they get some chances against the Bears' rugged defense. In 25 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line, the Saints have scored just nine touchdowns for a 36.0 percent success rate.

    Some of their problems have to do with the loss of powerful running back Deuce McAllister and wide receiver Joe Horn to a hamstring injury for the better part of four games. But doing a better job of sticking the ball in the end zone -- if they're able to get that close -- will be a key to their success this week.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH

  • Saints secondary vs. Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad. Top cornerback Mike McKenzie and his teammates in the secondary will have to do a better job on Muhammad than they did in two meetings against him in 2004 when he was with the Carolina Panthers. Muhammad had 10 catches for 179 yards and one touchdown in the first matchup and added six receptions for 95 yards and two scores in the season finale, so he'll get plenty of attention on Sunday.

  • Saints front four vs. Bears QB Kyle Orton. A 22-year-old rookie, Orton has done a good job managing games for the Bears in completing 55.3 percent of his passes with six touchdowns. But the Saints will try to rattle him with a heavy pass rush and some blitzes in order to force him into mistakes. He has been sacked 16 times and has thrown seven interceptions.

  • Right tackle Jammal Brown vs. Bears left end Adewale Ogunleye. Brown, who returned to the lineup last week after a sprained ankle sidelined him for two games, has had a solid season as a rookie while going against some of the game's top pass rushers -- including Julius Peppers and Michael Strahan. On Sunday, he'll get another big test against Ogunleye, who has 32 1/2 sacks in his last 51 games.

    "Do I expect to see some max protect? Yeah I do," Rivera said. "I watched them and saw them do some things that leads me to believe they're going to try to block 7 or 8 guys against us."


  • Bear Report Top Stories