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Sunday, September 18, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Saints 30, Bears 13

By Michael C. Wright



NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on Chicago’s 30-13 loss on Sunday to the New Orleans Saints:

What it means: The Bears could be in a tough situation. The club anticipated a difficult stretch to start the season with the Falcons, Saints, and Green Bay Packers. So falling to the Saints wasn’t necessarily a surprise. What’s surprising, however, is the team’s failing health. The Bears lost starting right guard Gabe Carimi (knee), safety Major Wright (head), and receiver Earl Bennett (chest) to injuries against the Saints, after starting the contest without Roy Williams, Marion Barber, Chris Harris, Lance Louis and Corey Wootton. The Bears know that overall team health is one of the most significant factors in the team repeating as NFC North champions. But the club might actually start division play next week against the Packers with as many as five starters out due to injury. That’s a major concern.

Forte homecoming: Running back Matt Forte returned to his home state of Louisiana and produced a blistering performance in multiple facets. Of the 165 net yards the Bears produced in the first half, Forte accounted for 118 of them.

A native of Slidell, La., and a former Tulane standout, Forte ran for 49 yards on nine attempts in the first half, including a burst for 42 yards. Forte also caught six of the seven passes thrown his direction for 69 yards. Prior to the regular season, Forte expressed the desire to receive a lucrative contract extension from the Bears, who extended what the running back considered a subpar offer. The Bears own the option of placing the franchise tag on Forte next season. But if the running back continues to produce the way he has over the past two weeks, the Bears -- fearing the asking price could climb too high -- might finally make an offer closer to what Forte seeks.

Chicago’s last offer prior to the start of the season was worth significantly less than what the running back is seeking, according to sources.

Urlacher returns: A day after attending the funeral services of his mother, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher rejoined his teammates, who appeared to give him a stirring reception during pre-game warm-ups.

Before the contest, Urlacher typed up a pre-game tweet that read: “Thanks for all the support and love given to the Urlacher family… now it’s back to my second family.”

The defense appeared to be emotionally charged prior to the game, but the unit still struggled, in part because of the absence of Harris, who was inactive because of a hamstring injury.

Urlacher also had somewhat of a quiet afternoon. By the end of the third quarter, the linebacker had been credited with three tackles. But it’s worth noting that Urlacher administered a few crushing tackles early in the game.

O-line still struggling: With 4:16 left to play, Cutler had been sacked five times. The offensive line suffered a major setback against the Saints, after what seemed to be a solid opener against the Falcons. The offensive line struggled to adjust to the multiple blitz looks and pressure packages brought by the Saints. The tight ends deserve a share of the blame, too.

As a result, Cutler took a beating. Cutler completed less than 50 percent of his passes against the Saints, marking the first time that’s happened in a regular season game since Dec. 12 of last season. Further complicating matters was the loss of Carimi.

What's next: The Bears host the divisional rival Packers on Sunday at Soldier Field, in the first meeting between these teams since the 2010 NFC Championship. The Packers have sacked Cutler eight times over the past two games the teams have played. Given the performance of Chicago’s offensive line against the Saints’ exotic blitz packages on Sunday, count on the Packers sending plenty of heat off the edge at Cutler, who could be without receivers Williams and Bennett.