In his past two games against the Bears, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has thrown for 674 yards and five touchdowns.
But Brees threw 109 passes in those two games – last year's regular-season finale and the 2006 NFC championship game – and the Bears won both.
"I don't think they get off the bus running the ball," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "They get off the bus throwing the ball, so you have to be able to pressure with your front four. Not just by blitzing, [but] with your front four. We have done that in the past, and hopefully we can do it again."
In both games the Bears sacked Brees three times, and they got three more Sunday against the Jaguars, but they're still in the bottom quarter of the league in sack percentage.
"You need to get pressure," Smith said. "I think it's always a key when you play against an offense that can move the ball like that."
The Saints certainly move the ball. They're No. 1 in the NFL in yards per game (405.9), yards per play (6.3) and passing yards per game (310.2) and tied for first in passing touchdowns (26). They're tied for second in points (366) and yards per pass (8.1) and third in third-down conversion percentage (46) and avoiding sacks (10).
On paper that appears to be a brutal matchup for the Bears, who are allowing 234.2 passing yards per game – 28th in the league. They're also 27th in sack percentage.
Brees leads the NFL with 4,100 passing yards and is on pace to throw for 5,046 yards this season, putting him within striking distance of Dan Marino's NFL record of 5,084. Facing Brees and the Saints for the third time in less than 23 months means Smith and the Bears don't have to be reminded of his ability to move the ball up and down the field in a hurry.
"It seems like every year we're talking about the same guy," Smith said of Brees. "He's right at the top. It seems like each year we talk about him being an MVP candidate. He's playing as good as he's ever played."
Brees' arsenal has regained the services of running back Reggie Bush after an injury hiatus. Despite missing four complete games and parts of two others, Bush has 50 receptions for 424 yards. Even without Bush, the Saints didn't skip a beat because Brees has many other options, including wide receivers Lance Moore (62 catches, 774 yards, 8 touchdowns), Devery Henderson (28 catches, 668 yards, NFL-best 23.9 yards per catch) and Marques Colston (25 receptions, 454 yards in half a season), plus tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Billy Miller, who have combined for 79 catches and 885 yards.
Just as they did Sunday, the Bears can count on weather that will not be conducive to executing a precision passing attack, but that won't be enough.
DEs Mark Anderson and Alex Brown
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
"It's pretty cold out there for us, too," Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. "I don't think we can rely on the weather to win this game. Our job as a defense is to stop a guy who's been hot all year, so hopefully we can make some plays."
Maybe they can. Not all the statistics favor the Saints. Brees has been intercepted 15 times, which leaves the Saints tied for 24th in avoiding picks. Although the Bears have allowed an abundance of passing yards, they're also No. 2 in the NFL in interception percentage with 19 picks. And on third down, the Bears' defense is No. 6 in the league, allowing a 33 percent conversion rate.
The weather won't win for the Bears, but it should give them an edge.
"To have a team like New Orleans that plays in a dome come up here and play in the cold," Brown said, "we should have an advantage."
NOTES & QUOTES
Running back Matt Forte is a native of Louisiana, and he'll have friends and family cheering for him during Thursday night's nationally televised contest against the hometown Saints – but not necessarily for the Bears.
"They'll be rooting for me probably," he said, "but they'll probably be rooting for the Saints. It's very special playing a team I grew up watching. It's a game I saw on the calendar when I first got drafted, so I'm very excited."
Forte passed Gale Sayers' team record for yards from scrimmage by a rookie on Sunday and has a combined 1,476 yards (1,081 rushing, 395 receiving), 102 more than the Kansas Comet accumulated in a 14-game season in 1965. Forte needs 102 more rushing yards to equal Anthony Thomas' franchise record of 1,183 set in 2001.
"I couldn't even imagine coming in and going past Gale Sayers' yards as a rookie," Forte said. "I really don't even look at stats. I just go out there and play."
Forte, a second-round pick out of Tulane, hasn't had a lot of experience playing in cold weather, but he said he wasn't bothered by Sunday's conditions.
"I know where I'm going. They don't," he said. "That's an advantage for me." …
For much of the season, defensive tackle Anthony Adams has been the forgotten man.
A starter for most of last season, the six-year veteran did not even dress in seven of the first 10 games. But when starting nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek went down with a ruptured biceps on the second play of last week's loss to the Vikings, it was time for Adams to step up.
Two weeks ago he was second among the Bears' defensive linemen with six tackles, and he was second on the team Sunday with 10 tackles – including six solos.
"It's been a lot of fun being in there with the guys and being held accountable for plays and having a lot of pressure on you," Adams said. "That's what we sign up for, so it's been a fun ride and I'm ready to stay on this ride."
Adams insists he doesn't feel any vindication in playing so well after being inactive for so long and has no desire to say, "I told you so."
"I'm playing for an audience of one," he said. "I'm going to be accountable for what I do for God. I'm not playing for the coaches. I'm not playing for different people outside of this organization." …
Brad Maynard added to his NFL-best total by dropping four of his six punts inside the Jaguars' 20-yard line Sunday, giving him a total of 32 – just four short of a personal best for the 12-year veteran from Ball State.
Kicker Robbie Gould hit all three of his field goal attempts, connecting from 22, 36 and 35 yards. He is now 21-for-24 on the season, an accuracy rate of 87.5 percent.
"We have an excellent kicker," Smith said. "Once we get the ball within striking range, we feel confident that he'll make the kicks. And we expect [Maynard] to keep them pinned down there and give our defense a chance to really keep them down there. It was about field position [Sunday], and both guys did a great job with that."
Maynard punts forced the Jaguars to start drives at the 8-, 6-, 15- and 19-yard lines. In his last two games he's placed nine of 15 punts inside the 20 and allowed a total of minus-1 return yards.
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