5 things to know from Saints’ 26-18 win over Bears
JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Pierre Thomas heard all about it from his friends, of all people. Yes, he failed to score in New Orleans’ first four games, and everyone wanted to know when he was going to get into the end zone.
He came up with a response in his hometown.
Thomas caught two touchdown passes from Drew Brees and had a crucial run on a key fourth down to help the undefeated Saints beat the Chicago Bears 26-18 Sunday.
“It was so nice. I’ve been striving and striving in past games to get a touchdown, I was so close,” Thomas said. “It just wasn’t there. I told myself, ‘Hey, you got to score here and put some points on the board.’
“I had a lot of friends telling me, ‘Hey stop playing around and put points up.’ I said I got them. I helped a lot of people out today.”
Thomas scored New Orleans’ first TD, fighting through D.J. Williams’ tackle attempt and extending his right arm over the goal line for a 2-yard reception that made it 13-0 with 5:57 remaining in the second quarter.
The Saints (5-0) got the ball back with 2:41 to go and Thomas came up with two more big plays in another scoring drive. First, he had a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 27, and then went 25 yards for the touchdown on a screen play with 23 seconds to go.
“When my name is called to do the job, I go out there and do my best,” the Chicago native said. “That’s all I can really ask for. When my name is called, just go out there and perform.”
That’s exactly what the Saints did in their first win in Chicago since a 31-10 victory on Oct. 8, 2000.
Brees was 29 of 35 passing for 288 yards in his first victory in four career games at Soldier Field. Jimmy Graham had 10 receptions for 135 yards, and Garrett Hartley matched a career high with four field goals.
“We knew the formula coming into this game was to remain patient, to run the football effectively, to be very efficient in the passing game and to take care of the football, priority No. 1,” Brees said, “and we were able to do all those things.”
Jay Cutler was 24 of 33 for 358 yards and two touchdowns for Chicago (3-2), which has lost two in a row after a perfect start.
“It’s just a few plays here and there,” Cutler said. “Against a team like that, the way they played offensively and ate up the clock it’s hard to rebound if you miss three or four plays in the game.”
Here are five things we learned in the Saints’ win against the Bears:
GRAHAM’S GREATNESS: Graham continued his torrid start with his fourth consecutive 100-yard game — matching an NFL record for a tight end. Tony Gonzalez was the first to accomplish the streak in 2000, and Graham matched the surge in 2011.
Graham and Brees said they spent more time together during the offseason, and it looks as if all that work is paying off.
“I’m just blessed to be with such a great quarterback and a guy who has so much trust in me,” Graham said.
JEFFERY ARRIVES: Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had 10 receptions for a franchise-record 218 yards, breaking Harlon Hill’s mark of 214 at San Francisco on Oct. 31, 1954. He also had a 3-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter.
While Jeffery had a breakout performance, teammate Brandon Marshall was held to four catches for 30 yards and a late 2-yard TD.
“I’ve got to do a better job of my making myself quarterback-friendly so I can try and make a play for our offense,” Marshall said. “We’re struggling a little bit.”
WHAT A CALL: Thomas’ second TD reception was the result of a perfect call by coach Sean Payton, who still has a deft touch when it comes to play-calling after missing last season as a result of the bounty scandal. Thomas caught the ball in the flat with a couple of blockers in front of him, and cut back around the 10-yard line to get into the end zone.
“It was a screen play away from the pressure,” Brees said. “So you had everybody going one direction and here we are throwing a screen and getting linemen out.
“That was a big play. Big momentum gainer going into halftime.”
MISSING PRESSURE: The Bears had just two sacks, and Brees had plenty of time to throw for most of the day. They have struggled to pressure the quarterback for most of the season, a problem they again will try to fix with Eli Manning and the winless Giants coming to Chicago on Thursday night.
KEEPAWAY: The Saints committed no turnovers and held onto the ball for 36 minutes. It was exactly what Payton was looking in New Orleans’ second road game of the season.
“I though our guys played real smart and did what we needed to do to get a good road victory,” he said. “It wasn’t always perfect or clean in the second half but it was good enough. We played well.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org