"We forget that he is a rookie like that with the play that he's had," Bears coach Lovie Smith said about Harris. "It's big for him to come back home -- he's from here -- to have that type of game."
Harris made seven tackles, had a sack and a fumble recovery in addition to a few key stops to help the Bears' defense overcome a shaky start.
"I had my best game in college on this field," Harris said, referring to a game his Louisiana-Monroe team lost to Nick Saban's LSU team. It was at that game when Saban noticed how well Harris played and later mentioned it to his friend, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo. The Bears drafted Harris in the sixth round this year.
"It was fun. It was hot out there," he said. "I had to get back acclimated to the heat again coming from Chicago. It's a big difference."
Harris turned up the heat on the Saints' offense in the first quarter when he recovered an Aaron Stecker fumble at the Bears' 13-yard line after Nate Vasher's hit on a pass completion with New Orleans leading 3-0. A replay review did not overturn the play, which changed the early tone of the game.
"The young man is a quality center fielder," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "He gets back there and he plays the field very well and he's a physical football player as well. He is a true safety and I think he's learning to really understand the game and the concept of which we play."
Harris also made a big second-half hit on wide receiver Donte Stallworth as he looked for a third-and-five pass, resulting in an incompletion.
"It was a nice plant and drive," Rivera said. "When you play that position, those are the hits you look for. It came at a good time. We needed to get off the field."
The Saints, who lead the NFL in turnovers, had three others besides Harris' fumble recovery. It was the Bears' ability to hold them to 29 yards in the second half on the ground, though, that left defensive players talking about how they had held their ground.
"They were running the ball down our throats," Harris said. "That's not our brand of football. We're smashmouth football as a team. We pride ourselves on stopping the run.
"The defensive coordinator wasn't too happy. He said his words (at halftime) and we stepped it up in the second half."