Keys To A 5-0 Start For New Orleans
By Greg Barber
Four weeks of the NFL season are in the books and the New Orleans Saints are 4-0 - and they are improving each game.
Week 5 is a huge test on a few different levels for the Saints as far as keeping their lead in the division, winning a conference game for homefield advantage and exorcising the demons of not winning in Chicago.
Along with facing a hostile crowd in Chicago, the Saints will also have to contend with a less than spectacular playing surface, a defense known for takeaways and a much-improved offense.
When you look at this matchup on paper, the signs all point to the Saints suffering their first loss in 2013. What is on paper will not determine the outcome of the game, however. Instead, there are four key factors that the Saints must focus on to remain unbeaten.
Please, Please, Please Get The Running Game Going
In the Bears game against the Detroit Lions, RB Reggie Bush had a field day against the Chicago defense. Instead of running outside of the Bears line, Bush ran inbetween the tackles to get most of his yardage. If the Saints offensive line can get on track early, this is a great opportunity to get the running game going to tire out the defense and to keep the ball away from the Bears offense. Do not forget that it would also open up some play action passes for Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees.
Keep Cutler Unsettled
Against Detroit, Bears QB Jay Cutler’s inner gunslinger came alive and he forced throws into coverage that were ultimately intercepted. Also, much like the Miami Dolphins, the Bears use the West Coast offense, which means they tend to throw a lot of slant routes, curl routes and smash routes. Bears head coach Mark Trestman’s offensive philosophy is to throw the ball short and count on receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey to break tackles and get the ball down the field.
A little press coverage from the Saints cornerbacks could help disrupt Cutler's timing with his receivers and could also lead to jumping routes and intercepting passes.
Even though the Bears offensive line has improved this year, there is the strong possibility that the Saints defense can get a push up the middle on Cutler. Sacking Cutler will make him become unhinged faster than anything else you can do to him.
Drew Brees Needs To Keep Spreading The Love
Just like last week against Miami, Brees just needs to be patient and take what the Bears give him. There will be a few mismatches that he will be able to take advantage of in the Bears secondary with all of his offensive weapons. This is a very good defense that thrives off turnovers, so the Saints should not take gambles because they can prove costly. It is going to be necessary that the offense gets passes off quickly so that Bears DE Julius Peppers does not get his hands on the Brees.
Stop Matt Forte
If Bears RB Matt Forte has a good game, that can spell doom for the Saints. It will be imperative that the Saints defense stops him early and often. Forte is a huge key to victory for the Bears, if not the main key for them. If the Saints can limit Forte to gains of two or three yards every time he carries the ball and not give up the big yardage runs, that would go a long way in frustrating Cutler.
Key Stats, Courtesy Of Pro Football Reference
Home Record 2-0-0
Away Record 1-1-0
Points Scored 127 (2nd)
Points Allowed 114 (26th)
Takeaway Diff. +5 (5th)
Pass Yds/Game 240 (19th)
Rush Yds/Game 111 (16th)
Def. Pass Yds/Game 277 (23rd)
Def. Rush Yds/Game 106 (15th)
Home Record 3-0-0
Away Record 1-0-0
Points Scored 108 (T 7th)
Points Allowed 55 (5th)
Takeaway Diff. +5 (5th)
Pass Yds/Game 338 (2nd)
Rush Yds/Game 81 (25th)
Def. Pass Yds/Game 192 (5th)
Def. Rush Yds/Game 112 (22nd)
This will not be your grandfather's three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust type of game. Instead, this has the makings of being a high-scoring affair. Both defenses will probably have a hard time stopping the opposing offense, but the team that can make that one last stop will win this game.
Prediction: Saints 31, Bears 14