The Saints improved to 4-0 with their 9th straight victory on Monday Night Football, filleting the Dolphins 38-17. Now the Black & Gold face a tough two-game road stretch where they’ll face the Chicago Bears, followed by the New England Patriots.
Soldier Field has not been a friendly venue for the Saints. They haven’t won there in the Sean Payton era, which includes a 31-19 Bears beat-down in the 2006 NFC Championship game.
What will it take to earn a “W” this week? Coach Payton and the team have been stressing winning the turnover battle against a Chicago ballclub that is historically good at creating them. Here are some players that I’ll have my eyes on in this one:
The Offensive Line
Yup, back to this group again. As a whole the unit has grossly underperformed this season and yet amazingly the team remains unbeaten. That’s a huge testament to just how good Drew Brees is at getting rid of the ball quickly, because the opposition has been getting to #9 A LOT. Too much in fact, as the quarterback has been sacked 12 times already.
Another problem has been the run game. It’s been putrid, averaging just 81.9 yards per contest and with Mark Ingram inactive the last 2 weeks, you can’t blame him. I know Jahri Evans still isn’t 100% healthy, but there have been breakdowns up and down the line, not just at his position. Fans are quick to jump all over me for my criticisms here, but it’s a huge problem…and if does not get corrected, will not carry you to the Promised Land. Heck, it just may bite you in the butt this week.
Running back Pierre Thomas (I’m still not giving up!)
Ok, so I’m a big fan of PT and still believe he can lead the Black and Gold’s rushing attack. So far Thomas is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and hasn’t been able to get into a groove.
The good news though is that the Chicago native has had some pretty good games against the Bears. In 3 contests he has an average of 4.57 yards per carry, 9.24 yards per reception while finding the end zone 3 times. I’m betting that this is the week Thomas will score for the first time this season
Defensive end Cameron Jordan
“The Big Kid,” as I call him, is showing that he is a force that’s not easily contained. After 4 games he has 4 sacks on the year and 23 total pressures on opposing QBs.
I know he’s dying to get lay a hit on “Mr. Pouty Face” Jay Cutler since the Bears signal-caller seems to be easily thrown off his game if things don’t go his way early on in games. Chicago’s offensive line may be improved, but I still expect to see Jordan leading a Saints pass rush that should get to Cutler often.
Running Back Matt Forte
This former Tulane Green Wave is the best back the Saints defense will have faced thus far this season. Forte can run inside, outside, and is a threat in the passing game as well. The last time he played New Orleans he racked up 167 all purpose yards (49 rushing / 117 receiving.)
Forte is reliable and is a consistent part of the Bears offensive game plan. He is looking for his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, and may achieve that, as the Saints defense is giving up on average 112 yards rushing per game.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery
We here in SEC country know this name well. Jeffery played 3 years in South Carolina and is gaining confidence in his 2nd season in the NFL after dealing with injuries in his rookie campaign.
This guy did a little bit of everything in their last game. He had a sweet catch in the endzone despite being blanketed by a defender; he showed the ability to beat a defense deep with a 44 yard grab; and the 23-year-old was even used as a weapon in the run game with a 27 yard end-around.
He is turning into a reliable target for Cutler and could be the x-factor for Chicago in this one.
Defensive End Julius Peppers
Sure, Peppers is getting “up there” in age, but Saints fans are quite familiar with his abilities from back in his Carolina Panthers days. His penchant for demolishing quarterbacks scares me, especially with the way New Orleans O-line has been playing.
However, the Bears defense isn’t what it used to be, by any means, and has been struggling to find a pass rush up front. That being said, Peppers seemed to come alive last week with 6 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. The 33-year-old is dealing with a chest injury and the severity of it is not yet known. If Chicago doesn’t have his presence up front, Drew Brees might be in the running for yet another Offensive Player of the Week award.
Great Video.....Just wish so called "adults" in the media could learn how to talk like adults....the opening of video is perfect example where Sean Payton's last name is pronounced Pait-un or whatever! It's Pay'ton emphasison the first syllable....Please learn to speak like an adult not like a teenager geez!
" grossly underperformed" Ya got dat right. Da O-line is the main thing wrong with the running game and why I remain very afraid for Drew's health.