At a combined 7-1, the match up this week between the Bears and the New Orleans Saints represents a key match up in the NFC as the NFL season enters its second quarter.
Both teams thus far have proved themselves worthy of playoff potential and you have to figure that both the Bears and Saints will play roles in shaping the postseason picture in the conference, especially New Orleans, who have reformed this season with an effectiveness that makes one forget all about their garbage pile of a season that was most of 2012 (strong finish notwithstanding).
Meanwhile, the Bears just want to forget about last week, and they may be able to with similar effectiveness this week. The Bears once again outplayed their opponent — that team in southeastern Michigan — in the fourth quarter, finally showing an alertness and expediency in moving the football at that time that was missing the rest of the day. Such a quality will be needed once again against New Orleans, who as typical will try to win the day with their potent offense.
The weather is looking to be in the Bears favor somewhat — temp in the 60s, possible wind and rain — but it won’t be like playing in December or January, the time of year for the last three Saints visits to Chicago, which they all lost. To get your hopes up and think that the Bears own the Saints in the Chi is wrongheaded, Brees really can throw anywhere and his team can chew up yards just as well dipping the ball off to Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham than on go routes.
I’m looking forward to a game much like the Bears/Vikings battle in Week 2 — lots of scoring overall, some needed scoring by the Bears defense or special teams, a couple momentum-bending plays brought on by Bears mistakes but they won’t be enough to keep the home team from winning.
In the case of the Lions, they had enough anti-Bears bile and fresh enough legs from Reggie Bush to spur on their stellar performance. Still, they didn’t get much from their receivers or tight ends in that game. If Megatron can struggle against the Bears secondary, so can Graham.
On offense, the Bears and Jay Cutler forgot how to control the ball for a while against Detroit and brought back bad memories of “Bad Jay” with three interceptions and a critical fumble. In spite of all that, by the end of the Lions game Cutler had his first 300-yard game of the season and two touchdowns to keep his TD/INT ratio from taking a big step back.
This week is another chance for Cutler and his coaches to prove to themselves and Bears followers that that good consistency on offense is the new norm and that bad games are going to be few and far between going forward.
When They Were Good: Bears/Saints Edition
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who really follows the Bears or Saints, but this Sunday marks a rare occasion when both teams are meeting each other with winning records.
Check out the other five times its happened within 15 meetings in the past 22 seasons, starting with the first playoff meeting between these two after the 1990 season (only the second playoff game in Saints history).Jan. 6, 1991 — Chicago Bears 16, New Orleans Saints 6 (Wikipedia)
Both teams were very much about their defenses in this era and the Bears’ postseason experiences during the ’80s probably were of much help versus their upstart opponents. Would be a rough rest of the ’90s for both franchises.Sept. 22, 2002 — Saints 29, Bears 23 (Pro Football Reference)
Bears were stuck playing at Memorial Stadium in Champaign while renovations were happening at Soldier Field, the Saints were in their Jim Haslett-led preface to their current renaissance period. Bears led at one point 20-0 before choking it up and setting the remaining tone for their 4-12 season.Jan. 21, 2007 — Bears 39, Saints 14 (PFR)
Finally, we’re talking the big time for both franchises — the NFC Championship game — the Bears for the first time since 1986 and the Saints for the first time ever, one season after going 3-13.
The 21-0 run in the fourth quarter to pull away has to be the most unvarnished moment of triumph for Bears nation since the ’85 Bears. The Saints — Brees, basically — represented in their coronation as a NFL power but they had no chance running the ball on Chicago and they turned the ball over four times. Thomas Jones had arguably his best game as a Bear and Rex Grossman sucked, natch.Dec. 11, 2008 — Bears 27, Saints 24 (OT) (PFR)
Before Thursday games became an every week thing, this mid-week treat saw two 7-7 teams battling for a wild card spot, each playing their butts off.
Daniel Manning set things off early with a kick return for a touchdown but the Bears surrendered a 21-7 lead before Robbie Gould tied things up late with a field goal and sent everyone home happy in the extra period. Neither team would make the postseason.Sept. 18, 2011 — Saints 30, Bears 13 (PFR)
Neither team was saying much by being undefeated going into this Week 2 affair, but here the Saints proved themselves as a real-deal team and the Bears began their trip to pretendersville.
Still, it was a 16-13 game heading into the fourth quarter, but Chicago really did not have the horses to run with Brees & Co. and the team ran for only 60 yards on 12 carries — bad game planning and execution and not the way the Chicago Bears win any game.
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