When the schedule was first announced all the way back in April, many penciled in a W for the week 5 game because last season the Saints' defense was so horrible. Historically horrible, in fact. It seemed like their defensive woes were going to be too much to fix in one offseason.
That has not been the case however, as soon as head coach Sean Payton was re-instated following the Super Bowl he fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and hired Rob Ryan. The makeover has been quick and painful for opposing offenses.
The Saints rank fifth in the NFL in total defense; fifth in pass defense, surrendering 192.2 pass yards per game with four touchdowns allowed and seven interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks are being held to a paltry 65.1 rating.
They rank 22nd in rush defense, allowing 112.2 rush yards per game, a healthy 5.5 yards per carry but have only allowed two rushing TDs. The Saints' unit ranks sixth overall in the NFL, allowing 304.5 yards per game and only 13.8 points per game (which ranks fifth).
Now with that discrepancy between run and pass defense, it should be about obvious what the Bears need to do to win Sunday: run, run, run the ball.
Matt Forte is going to be the biggest key to the Bears offense Sunday. While there are certainly many other factors (which Steven Schweikert will touch on in his weekly "Six-Pack Keys to Victory" post) and stopping Darren Sproles (something Kev touched on earlier) will be important, but the Bears will want to get Matt Forte going earlier and often.
While Forte has yet to break the 100 yard-rushing plane this year, he still ranks fifth in rushing yards with 320, fifth in yards from scrimmage (480) and eighth in all-purpose yards (480). He is also fifth in the league in touches (92), third in rushing touchdowns (3) and seventh in rush yards per game (80). He is averaging 120 total yards per game.
It was no secret that Forte was going to be a key cog in Marc Trestman's offense but with all the attention placed on Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery and the rest of the passing game, Forte has quietly started to have one of his best seasons ever.
He is on pace for 1,920 yards from scrimmage and with a big game or two, 2,000 scrimmage yards is not out of the question.
With the Saints rush defense lagging behind their pass defense, it will be key to get Forte going Sunday, especially with the Saints allowing 5.5 yards per carry to opposing running backs. With Forte running, it will control the clock and keep Drew Brees, Sproles and Jimmy Graham off the field. Aaron Kromer alluded to this yesterday.
So hopefully the Bears will get a big game from Forte and be able to control the clock and dictate pace. The Bears may not be able to match the Saints offense point for point yet were it a shootout, but with Forte and the Bears playing on the Soldier Field sod, they have as good a chance as any to win Sunday.