Saints move to 5-0, prove they can win a tough road game

Eric Edholm

You can forget the narrative about the New Orleans Saints being great at home and vulnerable on the road.

Following a 26-18 victory over the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field, one the Saints dominated much of, New Orleans proved that it can go to just about any city, play in any environment and on any field (especially that field!) and win a ballgame.

The offense has its swagger and nerve back. The defense is a ball-hawking, attacking unit. Strong in the kicking game. What's the major weakness here? Are we missing something?

Opponents have to pressure Drew Brees up the middle and disrupt the timing of the passing game. Otherwise, he's going to complete 29-of-35 passes (with two clear drops), like he did Sunday. Oh, the Bears contained Darren Sproles and Marques Colston. So all that meant was that Brees was going to feed Jimmy Graham (10 catches, 135 yards) and — sure, why not? — Pierre Thomas, who caught two TD passes.

Graham now has 548 yards receiving the past four games. Thomas remains the most underrated back in the league for about the fourth straight season. Sproles was a beast last week. Colston can heat up at any moment.

It's a Saints team that has a different vibe to it — and the big differences are Sean Payton being back and Rob Ryan coming on board. Ryan had Bears quarterback Jay Cutler seeing ghosts early with a few blitzes that appeared to be added to the playbook this week. If the front four keeps rushing like it has and the secondary remains this good a playmaking unit, the Saints will be contenders for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. We're at the point now where it won't be a shock if they can go to 4-1 New England next week and win there, too.

The Saints are winning games they did not a year ago. When conditions changed, when the gameplan had to be thrown out the window mid-game last season, the Saints often crumbled. Payton brings that focus back, and Ryan and Brees have been at their best when it counts most. Take away one receiver, or even two, and someone else will step up. This team can win games in a variety of ways, and that's what makes the Saints so dangerous.

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