LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- More than a decade in the NFL has taught Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers several certainties. Among them, the truth about playing against quarterbacks such as New Orleans' Drew Brees.
"When you play against somebody like a Drew Brees, a Peyton Manning, a (Tom) Brady or somebody like that, sometimes you've just got to hope for them to have a bad game,” Peppers said, laughing. "That's just where we are right now. We're gonna rush. We're gonna try to affect him in the ways we can. I think we're gonna do a little bit better this week in that area.”
If they do, the Bears certainly increase their prospects for winning Sunday at Soldier Field.
The Saints currently average 338.3 net yards per game through the air, which ranks second in the NFL. When Brees eclipses 300 yards passing, the Saints hold a 45-19 record over the quarterback's eight-year career with the Saints. His current streak of nine consecutive 300-yard passing games ties his nine-game tear from 2011 and 2012, which went down as the longest streak in NFL history.
"It's huge what he's been able to do so far this year,” defensive end Corey Wootton said. "The offense seems so different from last year to this year. They got their coach (Sean Payton) back. Brees has looked great, (tight end) Jimmy Graham, (receiver Marques) Colston has looked great. (Running back Darren) Sproles is always a dynamic player. We're going to have our hands full. We have to come out and start fast and rally to the football; something we haven't been doing.”
Peppers sees that changing this week somehow. He wouldn't say exactly why but alluded to Chicago's custom under new coach Marc Trestman of working the starters on offense against the No. 1s on defense at practice, and the fact the Bears' offense is similar to what the Saints run.
"A guy like Drew Brees is a guy that knows how to undress a defense,” Peppers said. "Most of the time he knows where he's gonna go before he even gets the ball. So he's ready to deliver that ball almost as soon as it comes to his hands.”
What enables Brees to do that, according to Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, is his tremendous command of the offense, which Trestman said, makes the quarterback "an expert at everything that they do.”
"He's one of the best quarterbacks ever to play this game,” Tucker said. "They have answers. He has answers. Their scheme has answers. So we'll do what we have to do to hold these guys to a low number.”
It won't be easy. Peppers knows that first hand. Prior to joining the Bears in 2010, Peppers spent the first eight years of his career with the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South and faced the Saints twice per year. In eight games against New Orleans, dating to Brees' first season with the Saints (2006), Peppers collected three sacks to help Carolina post a 6-2 record in those contests.
As a Chicago Bear, Peppers faced Brees only once (in 2011), and finished without a sack.
"That's been a long time ago,” Peppers said about his twice-yearly matchups against Brees. "That was four or five years ago. So I'm not as familiar with those guys now. But basically, our offense is very similar to theirs. So we do see something (the Bears can capitalize on). We're not them. But practicing against our offense helps gets us prepared.”