Chicago - The New Orleans Saints ended their Windy City woes and continued their perfect start to the season with a 26-18 victory over the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Saints had never won in Chicago in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era - losing twice in the regular season and once in the NFC championship game - until Sunday's victory.
The 5-0 Saints - off to their best start since the 2009 season - used a familiar formula to secure the win: tremendous play by Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham and an attacking defense that got on the Jay Cutler-led Bears early and held them off late.
Brees finished an amazing 29 of 35 for 288 yards and two TDs with 10 of those completions going to Graham, who finished with 135 yards, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. That tied a mark for tight ends that Graham already shared with Tony Gonzalez. It was the first game this season that Graham didn't have a TD catch. The game also marked the end of Brees' streak of games with at least 300 yards passing at nine.
Chicago-area native Pierre Thomas also had a big game for the Saints, catching nine passes for 55 yards and two TDs, one of which was a 25-yard screen down the left sideline at the end of the second quarter that put the Saints firmly in control at 20-7. He ran 19 times for 36 yards, most in the second half as the Saints were trying to work the clock.
The Bears got off to a rough start when Matt Forte almost fumbled away the first pitch of the game. The Saints did force a turnover on the next possession as safety Malcolm Jenkins sacked Cutler and forced a fumble that Cameron Jordan recovered. The Saints didn't get a touchdown off the turnover but kicker Garrett Hartley drilled the second of his four field goals.
After the early turnover Cutler settled down and kept the Bears (3-2) close but he only led his team into the end zone twice, scoring on a 3-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery, who led the Bears with 10 catches for 218 yards. Brandon Marshall caught a 4-yard TD pass late in the fourth quarter as the Bears fought to get back in the game.
Cutler finished 24 of 33 for 358 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Matt Forte ran 12 times for 55 yards and caught four passes for 40 yards.
The Saints also did a tremendous job of keeping Bears return ace Devin Hester from making an impact. Thomas Morstead's kickoffs were deep and he angled most of his punts to the sideline. Both coverage teams did a nice job containing Hester the few times he had a returnable kick. He had 66 return yards on three attempts.
The field was a little bit of an issue for the Saints, causing players to slip several times during the game. The Chicago area received drenching overnight rain and the grass field was covered by a tarp until two hours before kickoff. But the game was played in a comfortable 60 degrees with just a slight wind.
Linebacker Curtis Lofton led the Saints defense with nine tackles while safety Kenny Vaccaro had six, including a sack. Jenkins and linebacker David Hawthorne had the other sacks for the Saints.
The Saints now head home to prepare for their next game, at New England on Oct. 13. The Patriots (4-1) lost to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.