- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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A steady Brees: Saints quarterback Drew Brees was terrific again Sunday. His brilliance was just a little more subtle than usual. Brees stayed patient, never trying to force the ball down the field while avoiding turnovers -- the team’s game plan against an opportunistic Bears defense.
Brees completed 29-of-35 passes for 288 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, ending his nine-game streak of 300-yard games. Both of his touchdowns came on short throws to running back Pierre Thomas. Brees completed 10 passes for 135 yards to his go-to target, tight end Jimmy Graham. But he completed only three passes to wide receivers (Marques Colston, two for 15 yards, and Nick Toon, one for 35 yards).
Brees called it being “aggressively smart.”
“I thought he did exactly what he needed to do to win a good, tough game on the road. He made smart decisions,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Running forward: The Saints’ final rushing numbers didn’t look all that great -- 28 carries for 66 yards (2.4 yards per carry). But they started much stronger than they had in recent weeks. Thomas gained six yards off left tackle on the Saints’ first play from scrimmage. And Thomas, Darren Sproles and Khiry Robinson combined for 36 yards on their first seven carries of the game before the first minus run reared its ugly head (a six-yard loss by Thomas). Again, we’re talking baby steps. But at least they’re steps in the right direction.
Deep trouble: The Saints did some great things on defense -- especially with their early blitzing success. But for the first time all year, their secondary got burned deep for two bombs from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to receiver Alshon Jeffery. Cornerback Jabari Greer got beat deep down the middle for 42 yards in the third quarter, and safety Kenny Vaccaro got burned down the left sideline for a 58-yard gain in the fourth quarter. The first led to a field goal, the second to a touchdown, making the game closer than necessary.
Non-play of the day: One of the key moments in Sunday’s game came midway through the fourth quarter, when the Saints drew Bears linebacker Lance Briggs offside on fourth-and-1. That allowed New Orleans to run another 3:35 off the clock and add another field goal for a 26-10 lead.