CHICAGO -- Drew Brees threw two second-quarter touchdown passes to running back Pierre Thomas and the New Orleans Saints, despite missing several chances to break open the game, easily defeated the Chicago Bears, 26-18, Sunday to start the season with a 5-0 record.
The Bears couldn't get beyond their own 35-yard line on their first five possessions, but the Saints had to settle for field goals and saw a couple of other drives stalled by short-yardage failures. But New Orleans still managed to take control of the game early, in part by sacking Jay Cutler three times.
Garrett Hartley kicked a 47-yard field goal to cap the Saints' first drive and, later in the first quarter, after a sack-fumble of Cutler set New Orleans up at the Chicago 6-yard line, the Saints stalled again at the one and Hartley had to kick a 19-yard field goal. Hartley added two more field goals in the second half, from 36 and 48 yards.
The game's first touchdown came in the second quarter when New Orleans drove 72 yards in six plays, the key a 38-yard pass from Brees to tight end Jimmy Graham, to set up a two-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.
Chicago matched that score with a quick drive of its own, ending with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Ashlon Jeffery. But in the closing moments of the half, the Saints marched 71 yards, converting a fourth down play at the Bears' 27-yard line just two plays before Thomas caught a short screen pass and weaved 25 yards through the Chicago defense for a touchdown that made the score 20-7.
The Bears had no defensive answer for Graham, who caught 10 passes for 135 yards.
New Orleans managed to play ball control most of the day, too, because the Bears seemed to eschew the running game even though the Saints came into the game allowing 5.5 yards a carry - sixth worst in the NFL. Matt Forte, the Bears' running back, had just four carries in the first half. In fact, the Bears did their best running during an abortive drive in the fourth quarter that carried from their own 1-yard line to the New Orleans 25.
The Bears' attempt to get back into the game ended there when Earl Bennett dropped a pass on 4th-and-2. The Saints then took over and held the ball for five and a half minutes before Hartley kicked his fourth field goal of the game to put the Saints ahead by 16 points.
Chicago made the final score look respectable, however, when Cutler threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall with 2:11 remaining in the fourth quarter and Matt Forte ran for a two-point coversion. A 58-yard throw to Jeffery set up the score; Jeffery caught nine passes for 197 yards in the game.
Notes: With defensive tackle Henry Melton out for the season due to a torn ACL, the Bears moved backup end Shea McClellin into his spot. Stephen Paea was inactive. ... Chicago's defense was further depleted in the third quarter when Nate Collins, the other starting defensive tackle, went out with a knee injury, leaving the Bears with McClellin and Landon Cohen, signed just a week and a half ago, as their defensive tackles . ... The Bears, with two rookies on the right side of their offensive line, frequently used Eben Britton, a backup lineman, as an extra blocker on first down on that side but the pressure on Cutler more often came from the other side. ... The Saints are off to their best start since 2009, when they won their first 13 games en route to their only Super Bowl title. ... Brees' streak of nine consecutive 300-yard passing games ended as he completed 29 of 35 attempts for 288 yards. Cutler completed 23 of 32 passes for 356 yards.