Pleased to Meet You: Week 5, New Orleans Saints

Chris Graythen

We're moving on from Week Four as the New Orleans Saints come to town to face the Bears at Soldier Field.

I'm sure everyone including myself would like to completely ignore a large, significant portion of Sunday afternoon, so I'll spare you the painful intro of recapping last week's debacle except to say this: It was the first loss of the season, on the road, against a division foe that is likewise now 3-1.

This week will probably be a bit more difficult. (As is the formatting this week; sorry for any noticeable differences.)

Last Year: Finished 7-9, in the muddle of that tie for second place in the NFC South at 7-9.

This Year: The Saints remain one of the few unbeatens as they're currently 4-0. It goes without saying that record leads the NFC South - much less the NFC.

When Last We Met: Gabe Carimi's second career NFL game didn't quite end all that well, as he departed in the second quarter en route to the Saints teeing off on the second year of the Mike Martz offense. The Saints beat the Bears 30-13 in week 2 of the 2011 season to advance to 1-1.

Offense:

Total Points: 108 (7th) | Total Yardage: 1678 (4th) | Passing Yardage: 1353 (2nd) | Rushing Yardage: 325 (25th)

Not sure about you folks, but when I think of the Saints offense I think of, well, what the Detroit Lions' offense aspires to be, but without the freakish talents of Calvin Johnson. Because with Drew Brees at the helm, the Saints have had one of the more prolific offenses in the league with their spray-to-all-fields passing game, including out of the backfield. Darren Sproles isn't an up the middle running back without good blocking (see: Reggie Bush), but given a big enough hole and enough space, he can rip off huge chunks of yardage in no time flat.

And the Saints' typical receiving options aren't bad either. Something about Jimmy Graham being a really good tight end (six touchdowns on the season and a team-leading 27 receptions), the three-headed monster of Pierre Thomas, Sproles and Mark Ingram at running back, and consider this - for being the team's "number one" receiver, Marques Colston is third on the team in receptions.

The plus side? Brees has been sacked twelve times this season... on 178 dropbacks. Not sure if that's really a plus side or more of an accumulation of chances.

Defense:

Total Points: 55 (5th) | Total Yardage: 1218 (6th) | Passing Yardage: 769 (5th) | Rushing Yardage: 449 (22nd)

The defense was my hinging point as far as not believing in the Saints heading into 2013, and so far they're doing their damnedest to tell me to go play more video games. As a group, they're allowing 5.4 yards per play, picking up 10 turnovers (7th in the league) and allowing scores on only 17.8 percent of their drives. (Side note: I love that PFR added those stats to their pages - now if they'd only fix the rankings...)

Defensive end Cameron Jordan leads the team with four sacks and Junior Galette has 3 in Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme, which in retrospect has been a really nice addition for them. And this is despite losing a significant portion of their team to IR this season - Jonathan Vilma's designated to return, but that's also losses of Will Smith, Kenyon Coleman and Patrick Robinson to contend with. First-round safety Kenny Vaccaro's started in all four games this season.

If the Bears do this...

Specifically, if the Bears play defense... The bottom line in the run is gap control and not allowing Sproles to go nuts in lanes that farm equipment could fit in. Sproles, Graham and Colston provide three very strong field-spreading targets, and that can cause immense problems. If the Bears are going to win this one, sure tackling and gap control to shut down Sproles is a big, big key.

If the Saints do this...

The Bears simply can't allow the Saints to come marching in. (Sorry, I'll go sit in the corner now...)

The Bears have been facing more and more pressure as the season's gone on. And with the general uptick in sacks taken as the season's gone on, the Bears are on pace for four unless they go back to what was working earlier in the year - quick passes, getting with the run game and getting it working, then getting the ball to Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Brandon Marshall. If the Saints put the Bears in a position to have to throw it deep whether by scheme or by score, Jay Cutler could be in for a long day.

Closing Thoughts:

At least the Bears are at home again now, and not in the Superdome. And the Saints are on a short week. But, it won't be easy at all for the Bears to right the ship.

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