NFL Nation: 2013 Week 5 NOR at CHI Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: New Orleans Saints

October, 6, 2013

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 26-18 victory against the Chicago Bears, which kept the Saints perfect at 5-0.

What it means: The Saints proved they don’t need to be in their comfort zone to win. They won a big game on the road, despite having to adjust to the sloppy Soldier Field turf. They relied more on their run game than ever this year. And their defense even mixed things up with more blitzes in the first half, which led to three sacks and a forced fumble.

Of course Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham still played big roles (that never seems to change). But the Saints are proving they can win games in a number of different ways this year, a great sign that they’re legit.

Stock watch: Saints running back Pierre Thomas relishes coming back to his hometown of Chicago, and the Saints counted on him in a big way Sunday. Thomas caught nine passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns. And he ran 19 times for 36 yards. Both of the touchdowns were terrific plays. Thomas stiff-armed linebacker D.J. Williams to turn the corner on a 2-yard swing pass in the second quarter. And he cruised behind great blocking on a vintage 25-yard screen pass shortly before halftime.

Blindsided: The Saints' defense had not been blitzing much this year. They hadn’t needed to, with their front four playing so well. But defensive coordinator Rob Ryan threw some new wrinkles at the Bears in the first half that worked wonders. Safety Malcolm Jenkins got a sack and forced fumble on a blitz. Linebacker David Hawthorne got a sack on a blitz. And safety Kenny Vaccaro got a sack when he and Jenkins both blitzed. Heading into the game, all 12 of the Saints’ sacks this season had come from defensive linemen or outside linebackers.

What’s next: The Saints will have another “prove it” game on the road against the New England Patriots (4-1). The Patriots stole some of the thunder out of the matchup with a rain-drenched loss at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Not only did they spoil the potential battle of unbeatens, but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass ended at 52. So he won’t be challenging Brees' NFL record of 54 in the head-to-head duel. Nevertheless, it will be the biggest game of the week on the NFL slate -- and a big test for both teams.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 6, 2013

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field:

What it means: Chicago hasn’t lost two in a row since December of 2012, and now has to go into a short week with the sting of that on its mind. The Bears still aren’t where they want to be, but there’s no reason to panic, because the team continues to show signs of growth.

Stock watch: Matt Forte's fumble on the first play from scrimmage short-circuited the team’s opening drive, and the play was typical of the type of day the team experienced early. Quarterback Jay Cutler suffered three sacks, and a fumble, leading to a Saints field goal. Despite a decent outing from Cutler, the protection early let him down, as did receivers. Earl Bennett's dropped ball on fourth down with 8:40 left, which would have converted a fourth-and-2 at the New Orleans 25, hurt Chicago’s chances for a rally.

Injuries mounting: Starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea made the team’s list of inactives for Sunday’s game after being listed earlier in the week as questionable with a turf toe injury. Paea’s inactivity paved the way for Nate Collins and Landon Cohen to start against the Saints. But Collins, who posted his first career solo sack in the first half, left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury, and was later declared out for the game.

The team already lost three-technique defensive tackle Henry Melton with a torn ACL, and cornerback Charles Tillman has practiced only one day per week for the majority of the season because of a sore groin and knee.

If Collins is forced out for an extended period, the Bears will likely wind up starting Cohen and Corey Wootton at tackle. The club will also be forced to look for more depth at the position on the waiver wire. It’s worth noting Chicago signed Cohen two days prior to the Sept. 29 loss to at Detroit.

Postseason chances slightly diminished? Since the playoffs moved to the 12-team format in 1990, 77 percent of teams that started the season 4-1 reached the playoffs (98 of 128 teams). Clubs with 3-2 records after the first five games have gone to the postseason 51 percent of the time (95 of 186).

What’s next: The Bears face a difficult four-day turnaround when they play host to the New York Giants on Thursday night.