BAYHAM: New England Is All Beat Up, And The Saints Have A Streak To Extend

You would have thought they won a playoff game.

At the conclusion of the New Orleans Saints’ victory over the not-as-hated-as-before Chicago Bears, dozens of Who Dats gathered on the south steps of the Field Museum of Natural History and broke out in a spontaneous chorus of Saints tunes to celebrate the end of the team’s Soldier Field losing streak.

So much ugliness had happened in that stadium, both on the field and in the stands, that the Black and Gold 26-18 victory helped exorcise the bad feelings of the past, leading to the mini-celebration.

To quote the little old medium from the movie Poltergeist, this house is clean.

Their unwilling audience of tens of thousands of Bears fans tried their best to ignore them as they coldly shuffled out the stadium, wearing no expressions on their faces as the once unbeaten Monsters of the Midway suffered their second consecutive defeat.

On the few occasions the Bears scored, the “Bear Down” chorus was badly sung with less bluster than the previous occasions. The Bear fans like their representatives on Soldier Field, seemed to be just going through the motions.
This time the Bears were not helped by their “twelfth man”: cold weather. Instead the Saints played in weather conditions better than those created by the Superdome’s climate control units.

Quarterback Drew Brees helped avenge his and his coach’s lack of success in the unfriendly confines by completing 29 out of 35 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and nary a pick. Kicker Garrett Hartley was even better, being a perfect 4 for 4. Hopefully the Hartley critics will go hide in the same corner as the Rob Ryan haters.

Another startling revelation from the Bears game: perhaps the Saints’ poor running game wasn’t all Mark Ingram’s fault.

The much-maligned Alabama running back has been out of action with a toe injury and the Saints’ ground game did not improve even when the ball was handed to the usually productive Pierre Thomas.

Thomas carried the ball 19 times and gained all 36 yards, an Ingram-esque average of 1.9 yard (note the singular) per run. When factoring that one of those runs was for 9, the average drops down to a 2010 Julius Jones-esque 1.5 yard per carry.

One has to give head coach Sean Payton credit- he stubbornly stood by the run despite the lack of progress with it, which helped burn up time and burn out the Bears’ defense. The Saints don’t have a running back problem; they have an offensive line problem.

The good news for the Saints is that their road trip to the north comes at a time of good weather against a New England Patriots team that is ailing from free agent departures, injuries and the removal from society of a dangerous individual who was once a major part of their offense.

As anyone who had the misfortune of picking him up in their fantasy football league can attest, the 2013 Tom Brady is not the scoring machine of yesterseasons.

The future first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee is 17th in the NFL in passing yards. A large part of the problem is that the reliable hands he used to hurl the pigskin to are not around.

Wes Welker is leading the league in touchdown receptions for a different Hall of Fame-bound quarterback, Rob Gronkowksi has been on the mend and Aaron Hernandez is in custody awaiting the start of his murder trial.
The good news for Brady & Co. is that he might have one of his favorite weapons back against the Saints.

Regarding Gronk’s activity going into the Sunday afternoon showdown against the Saints in Gillette Stadium, Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick would only share that “he practiced” when a reporter asked for specifics. It would be safe to assume that the 4-1 Patriots are anxious to get their all-pro tight end back on the field as quickly as possible as things will be a lot more competitive in the AFC East this year.

Combined with a surprise humbling at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals (with the end of Brady’s chase of the “BrUnitas” consecutive game touchdown streak adding extra ignominy), the Patriots will be playing hungry and angry on Sunday.

Though this isn’t the same Patriots team the Saints convincingly vanquished in the Superdome in the magical 2009 season, this is a more desperate team, which could be why the Saints are a 2 point underdog.
Only the December road trip to Seattle will present a tougher challenge for New Orleans.

In Chicago, the Saints managed to get beyond some bad history and make a statement that with a 5-0 record, they are for real.

By extending their winning streak with a victory at Foxborough against the Patriots, the Black and Gold could at best create more distance or at worst maintain the 3-5 game gap between themselves and the rest of the NFC South for the division title that could be secured as early as November 17th.

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