The New Orleans Saints beat the Chicago Bears this past Sunday 26-18. This win over the Bears was more than just a win over a worthy opponent; it represented a triumph over the many aspects that have haunted the Saints in the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era—physical defense and road games.
Though the weather wasn’t inclement, the windy weather and less than ideal turf upkeep surely made life difficult for the Saints. All these years, the Saints have been an offensive team that worked best in domes where the turf was fast. However, whenever the Saints traveled to Chicago (or any non-dome venue) they would have trouble due to lack of speed on the grass. These conditions, combined with physical play would always throw the Saints out of rhythm and ultimately lead to them having to rely on their defense which would let them down consistently. Not this time!
The Saints were able to beat the Bears at their own game. Though they weren’t able to run the ball for a large amount, they were able to possess the ball for a whopping 36 minutes. Also, they were able to run the ball when needed on multiple 3rd and 4th and shorts. On top of that, they stayed turnover free and forced the Bears into a turnover and a few sacks. This is usually what is victimizing the Saints when they go on the road.
On the defensive side, these are the type of game where the Saints get grounded and pounded up and down the field. They were able to hold Matt Forte to only 55 yards rushing with his long being 14 yards. That, along with the amount of sacks the defense had, showed that the Saints were able to control the line of scrimmage which was only a dream last season and seasons past.
It’s just baby steps. No one is saying that the Saints can go and dominate in a blizzard or a hurricane, but winning the way they did in Soldier Field on a brisk October day is a start. Now that the Saints have a traveling defense and ball control type of offense, there is no reason the Saints can’t succeed on West Coast against Seattle in their wet conditions, or in San Francisco against their physical brand of defense.
And this success will be needed because, remember, the Super Bowl will not be in a climate controlled dome or warm weather venue; instead, it will be outside in the cold, possibly snowy, conditions of New York City’s winter.