8:30 PM ET, December 15, 2014
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
The Saints could boost their hopes in the NFC South by bouncing back from a lopsided defeat in Monday night's visit to a Bears team that's been eliminated from playoff contention.
New Orleans (5-8) stayed tied for the division lead even after a 41-10 home loss to Carolina last Sunday because co-leader Atlanta couldn't rally past Green Bay in a 43-37 defeat Monday. The Falcons currently hold the tiebreaker because they won the only meeting this season and have a 4-0 division record to the Saints' 2-2 mark.
New Orleans, however, faces Atlanta next weekend at home. Carolina remains in contention at 4-8-1.
The NFC South winner is guaranteed to become the fifth division champion with a non-winning record after a 16-game season. It could also become the second division winner with a losing record, joining the 2010 Seattle Seahawks, or the first with at least 10 losses.
"The only reason we're sitting here still with that small sliver of hope is just because the way the division has unfolded this year," coach Sean Payton said.
Oddly enough, maybe heading out of town could help get his team on track. The Saints' four-game home losing streak is the longest of the Payton era, but they've won their last two road games at Carolina and Pittsburgh.
Payton hinted Monday that he could make some changes after his team's most lopsided defeat since 2007 and its fourth in five games. The Saints cut beleaguered receiver Joe Morgan on Tuesday and are reportedly benching safety Kenny Vaccaro.
The Saints have given up at least 27 points in five straight games and allowed an average of 472.3 yards in the past four. They're yielding the second-most yards per game this season at 398.7, just ahead of Atlanta's 410.8.
"Guys understand, hey, this is serious. It's their profession. It's our profession. It's going to be our job and the leaders of this team to lead. This is exactly when you find out who your guys are," Payton said. "If it's not happening ... then we're going to look at other options."
New Orleans will get to face another struggling defense Monday night. Chicago (5-8) has allowed a league-worst 29.1 points per game and an average of 377.8 total yards.
The Bears, set to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year, have allowed a combined 75 points in back-to-back losses after last Thursday's 41-28 defeat to Dallas.
Because of that performance, Chicago will reportedly let go of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker at the end of the season. There are also rumors that the franchise is regretting the sizable contract it gave turnover-prone quarterback Jay Cutler this past offseason.
Cutler has a league high-tying six fumbles and the second-most interceptions (15) since signing his seven-year, $126.7 million deal that includes $54 million guaranteed. Coach Marc Trestman said he plans on keeping him as the starter despite the Bears' elimination.
"Jay and I talk daily. I think he has a very good understanding of how we feel about him. There's a lot of noise out there. We're all aware of that," Trestman said. "All we're trying to do here is to get our football team in a position that we can be better on Monday night.
"The focus inside this building is exactly that and has always been exactly that week to week. That's all that's been important to all of us here."
Cutler led the Bears to only seven points through 40 minutes against the visiting Saints when these teams met last season, and Chicago couldn't overcome a 16-point deficit in a 26-18 loss.
The Bears have rushed for a combined 48 yards in their past two games but are facing a New Orleans run defense which has surrendered an average of 183.8 during the team's 1-4 slump.
Drew Brees has led the Saints to wins in the teams' last two meetings with five TD passes and no interceptions, completing 76.4 percent of his passes for 558 yards. He had season lows for yards (235) and completion percentage (59.2) in the loss to Carolina.
It's uncertain if Bears kicker Robbie Gould's injured right quad will keep him out of a second straight game. Chicago lost star receiver Brandon Marshall for the season because of rib and lung injuries suffered against the Cowboys.
The Bears placed starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams on injured reserve Thursday because of a neck injury and signed fullback Montell Owens. Williams appeared in 12 games in his second season with Chicago.
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|Avg Points Allowed||1.1||2.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NO|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NO|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New Orleans leads 5-4|
|Oct 6, 2013||NO 26, @CHI 18|
|Sep 18, 2011||NO 30, CHI 13|
|Dec 11, 2008||NO 24, @CHI 27|
|Dec 30, 2007||NO 25, @CHI 33|
|Jan 21, 2007||NO 14, @CHI 39|
|Nov 6, 2005||NO 17, CHI 20|
|Oct 12, 2003||NO 20, CHI 13|
|Sep 22, 2002||NO 29, @CHI 23|
New Orleans and Chicago enter tonight's game with a couple key similarities. They have the same poor record, and they have the same poor defense. But the Saints can assume first place in its division tonight, while the Bears are in the basement of their division while already being out of the playoff picture.[+]
Same But Different - Saints and Bears This Season
Brees and Jimmy Graham connected for 5 receptions and 87 yards. Three of Graham's receptions came more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, accounting for 77 of his yards. However, Brees was 0-of-2 when targeting Graham inside the 20-yard line. Pierre Thomas had 2 receptions of 30+ yards in the 1st quarter. Thomas entered the game with three such receptions in his career. Thomas is the third running back with multiple 30+ yard receptions in a game this season, along with Le'Veon Bell and Darren Sproles.
The Bears averaged 5.5 yards per play on designed rushes and 4.4 yards per play on dropbacks. The Bears had 19 designed rushes to 39 dropbacks, 3 of which resulted in interceptions. Cutler was sacked 7 times Monday, tied for the second-most in his career. During the last 3 weeks, the Bears have averaged 13.7 designed rushes per game, the fewest in the league during that span.
Jay Cutler has averaged a turnover every 33.3 snaps this season, the 3rd-worst rate among all qualified players in the NFL. It's nearly twice as bad as the average qualified NFL QB (TO every 65.3 snaps).
From Elias: Drew Brees threw a TD pass to Marques Colston for the 67th time on Monday night. That's tied with Peyton Manning-to-Reggie Wayne for the 5th-most prolific connection in NFL history.[+]
Drew Brees completed 21-of-25 passes (84%) for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns on throws 10 yards downfield or shorter. Brees' 208 yards on short passes were his most in a game since Week 5 this season. Part of Brees' success in the short passing game came off play action. Brees was 7-of-8 for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns off play-action passes Monday. Brees had more touchdowns (3) than incompletions (1) when facing a standard pass rush.
Jay Cutler had 3 turnovers Monday, giving him an NFL-high 24 on the season. His 6.8 Total QBR Monday wasn't even a season low (6.0 in Week 10). Cutler is making $22.5 million this year, the highest of any offensive player in the NFL.
Cutler had more interceptions (3) than completions (2) on passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield Monday. Cutler's 3 interceptions on throws more than 10 yards downfield were tied for his most in a game in his career (Week 4, 2013 vs Lions).
Jay Cutler's interception on the opening drive was his 22nd turnover this season, the most by any player in the league.
The Bears were shutout in the 1st half for the fourth time this season. The Bears were not shutout in one 1st half last season. Four 1st-half shutouts is tied with the Titans and Buccaneers for most in the league this season.
Drew Brees threw his 15th pass TD to a tight end this season, tied for second-most in the league this season.
This is Drew Brees' 46th career game with 300+ pass yards and 3+ pass touchdowns since 2001, most in the league during that span.
ESPN Stats & Information