When Drew Brees needed a 12-yard completion to keep a drive alive against Chicago’s vaunted defense, he stepped up in the pocket and aired it out instead.
The aggressive approach produced a stunning 79-yard scoring pass to Devery Henderson and set an energizing tone that carried the Saints to a lopsided 30-13 triumph Sunday over a Chicago franchise that had dominated the series in recent years.
”They play a tough physical brand of football that really makes you earn everything,” Brees said of the Bears, whom he had not beaten in three previous meetings since joining the Saints in 2006.
”Today, we knew the formula ourselves for winning this game. That was establishing the run, being patient, but also calling some shots, and hey, if it’s there, we need to take full advantage.”
Brees completed 70.3 percent of his passes (26 for 37) for 270 yards and three touchdowns, including a clutch 4-yard scoring pass to Robert Meachem on third-and-goal and a swing pass to Darren Sproles that produced a 12-yard score as New Orleans (1-1) won for the first time this season.
Jay Cutler had little chance of keeping up against a Saints defense determined to regain an intimidating edge, and which beat up on him with six sacks.
”We took it to them today,” said Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who had one sack. ”We outhit them, and that was our goal, so it feels good.”
Facing heavy blitzing and without injured receiver Roy Williams, Cutler passed for 244 yards and a score, but completed only 42 percent of his passes (19 of 45) and fumbled once on a sack and by Turk McBride. Jonathan Vilma recovered on the Bears 29, setting up Meachem’s score, which gave New Orleans a 23-13 lead in the third quarter.
Running back Matt Forte had 117 yards receiving to go with 49 yards rushing for Chicago (1-1), which lost guard Gabe Carimi and safety Major Wright to injuries after entering the game without several other injured starters.
Saints defenders had talked all week of bouncing back from their last outing at Green Bay, where they yielded five touchdowns and missed a slew of tackles in a 42-34 season-opening loss.
They brought relentless pressure against a Bears offensive line that started the game without injured guard Lance Louis and then lost Carimi, their other starting guard, to a right knee injury.
Roman Harper and Junior Gallette each had two sacks.
Cutler was hit repeatedly as he threw, including once from behind by safety Malcolm Jenkins, after which the Bears’ beleaguered quarterback remained briefly on his knees with hands over each side of his helmet.
”It was a long day out there,” Cutler said. ”I had to throw a lot of balls before I wanted to. … The Saints were the better team today. They rushed me hard and forced our offense to do things we didn’t want to do.”
Most of Cutler’s passing success came on dump-offs to Forte, a New Orleans-area native who played home games in the Louisiana Superdome when he starred for Tulane.
The Saints also allowed 60 yards rushing, with 12 of those yards on Cutler’s scramble.
Brees completed passes to eight targets, including three to Henderson for 103 yards. Tight end Jimmy Graham had six catches for 79 yards, ending one reception with a forceful head-on collision that shook up Wright.
Sproles caught eight passes for 43 yards. The Saints had 118 yards rushing, with rookie Mark Ingram gaining a team-leading 51.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who spent part of the past week away from his team following the sudden death of his mother, said returning to the field was an emotional struggle, but added that was not to blame for his unit’s inability to sustain its dominance of a week ago against Atlanta.
”This was a real tough game to play today, but I went out there and gave it my all,” Urlacher said. ”That’s a high-powered offense we were playing against. We were on a real high last week after winning against Atlanta. We don’t have the same feeling now.”
The Bears scored first on Dan Sanzenbacher’s 8-yard catch, capping a drive highlighted by Forte’s 42-yard run.
New Orleans cut it to 7-3 on John Kasay’s 31-yard field goal, then vaulted into the lead on Brees’ deep heave to Henderson. Still possessing the breakaway speed that made him a star at LSU, Henderson split Wright and Chris Conte to make the over-the-shoulder catch, then slipped their diving tackle attempts to make it 10-7 early in the second quarter.
”There’s a lot of trust with that throw,” Brees said. ”Obviously, I have a lot of trust in Devery.”
Kasay added field goals of 29 and 53 yards in the first half.
Robbie Gould pulled Chicago to 16-10 with a 42-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half, then added a 38-yarder in the third quarter for Chicago’s final points.
Notes: Chicago was the only NFC team Saints coach Sean Payton had not beaten since becoming New Orleans’ coach in 2006. Payton, who grew up in suburban Chicago, had been 0-3 against the Bears, including the NFC title game to end his 2006 season. … After opening the season scoring one TD on their first seven trips inside an opponents’ 20, the Saints converted on two straight trips against the Bears in the second half. … Of Chicago’s 246 yards from scrimmage, Forte had 166. … Bears receiver Earl Bennett left with a chest injury in the first half.