New Orleans Saints players and coaches may not want to term it a "roll," but the fact is New Orleans' four-game winning streak is the second-longest in the NFL, and the longest for the Saints since 2013. Whatever it's called, New Orleans (4-2) is hoping to extend it on Sunday against the Bears (3-4) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Here are a few ways in which the Saints can make that happen:
- In the first four games of the season, the Saints didn't commit a turnover. In the most recent two, they've committed five. Even though the Saints managed to win both games, that's a no-no and against the Bears, especially, it's a no-no. Chicago has returned three turnovers for touchdowns in its last two games, both victories. And defense is the primary reason that Chicago won those games; it hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in the last nine quarters, and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed a total of 12 passes in the last two games. What the Saints don't want to do, is give Chicago extra possessions and a short field. Taking care of the ball will help in that regard.
- New Orleans impressed offensively in the second half against Green Bay and overall, Drew Brees directed a unit that hogged the ball for 36:56 of the 60-minute game. The Saints were especially stout down the stretch, effectively running the ball when everyone in Lambeau Field knew they wanted to run it. Mark Ingram has 219 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries in the last two games, and has a chance to run for 100 yards in three consecutive games for the second time in his career. And rookie Alvin Kamara (19 carries for 132 yards the last two games) ensures that there's no drop-off in production when he's on the field. The Bears are allowing 104.9 rushing yards per game, so winning this matchup will be huge for the Saints.
- If you're the Saints, you want to put the ball in Trubisky's hands and the game on his shoulders. He'll be making his fourth start and so far – as you'd expect – Chicago has done its best to not put much pressure on his shoulders. Forcing the game into his hands won't be easy, though: Chicago rushes 30.3 times per game for 126.3 yards, fifth- and seventh-most in the league, respectively. If the Saints can control the Bears' running game, it appears that the Bears have had trouble protecting Trubisky, who has been sacked a combined eight times in the last two games. Defensive end Alex Okafor has forced a fumble on a sack in each of the last two games and even though fellow defensive end Cam Jordan didn't record a sack against Green Bay, he spent a great deal of time in the backfield, pressuring the quarterback. But, first things first: The Saints have to stop the run.
- Chicago could present a pass rush as formidable as any New Orleans has faced this season. Especially, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, (six sacks) a former Saint, has been disruptive for the Bears, who have 21 sacks. When Hicks is on the interior, he primarily could face guards Andrus Peat and Senio Kelemete (who likely will start at right guard for the injured Larry Warford), and center Max Unger. Brees only has been sacked five times, a testament to the protection and to his ability to get rid of the ball and avoid sacks. Hicks and his teammates will present a stiff test.
- Hopefully, the special team units are clean this week. It's been a rough ride the last two games: a punt return allowed for a touchdown, a blocked point-after attempt and two muffed punts (one negated by penalty, another saved by fumble recovery). Those mistakes have to be eliminated because sooner or later, one is going to be more costly than it has been allowed to be.