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Saints' rush won't be a Brees for Bears' defense
Thomas, Bush can be strong complement to passing attack
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Columnist

Pierre Thomas, left, and Reggie Bush combined for 182 yards rushing in the Saints' victory over the Falcons on Sunday.


Associated Press

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Published: 12/11/2008 12:04 AM

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The Bears would like to go into tonight's game knowing they only have to contain the passing of Drew Brees to defeat the New Orleans Saints, but they can't make that assumption.

"They ran for over 180 yards (184) last week," said Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich. "Pierre (Thomas) had (102) yards, Reggie Bush had (80). Recently the run-pass ratio has been closer to balanced, so I think that's the direction they're headed."

Likely only until crunchtime, when the Saints will revert to what they've done best since Brees took over at quarterback - throwing the ball.

When it gets to that point, the Bears likely will have to rely on sacks and turnovers to slow down the New Orleans offensive attack, a plan that has worked before.

The Saints have shown they can run the ball if opponents ignore that possibility, but they're the No. 1 offense in the NFL because Brees continues to throw the ball all over the yard. He already has fired it 503 times this season, more than anyone except Arizona's Kurt Warner (505).

But even though Brees has thrown for 674 yards and 5 touchdowns in his last two games against the Bears, the Saints lost both times. That's because the Bears forced 7 turnovers (3 interceptions, 4 fumbles) and sacked Brees six times.

"We've been very fortunate," Babich said. "That's one way to slow them down is get some take-aways, and we've been able to cause some fumbles and get some picks, and we've had some sacks in the past."

The Bears also were fortunate to enter the season with solid depth on the defensive line.

Nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after suffering a ruptured biceps on the second play of the Week 12 game against Minnesota.

At the time, Dvoracek led all Bears linemen with 40 tackles, but backups Israel Idonije and Anthony Adams have more than picked up the slack.

Idonije got a game ball for his 11/2 sacks last week, while Adams had 10 tackles, the most by a Bears lineman since 2006.

"Both gave us good play," coach Lovie Smith said. "Izzy (is effective) not only as a pass rusher, but he can get his hands up (to knock down passes). He's deflected a couple of balls (6 this season), and he's played the run hard.

"Late in the year you need a couple of guys from the bullpen coming in, and that's what we're getting from them."

The Bears also need production from some of the guys who have been underachieving for much of the season, such as defensive ends Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye and tackle Tommie Harris.

Those three share the team lead in sacks - with just 5. If they can pressure the QB, the back seven has a better chance of adding to an impressive 19 interceptions, sixth in the league.

"I just hope we can try to duplicate what we did last week," Ogunleye said. "Try to get the turnover quick, get the momentum going in our direction, get in Brees' face early, gang tackle, let them know that we're here to play."

But they can't forget about the running of former Illini Thomas, who picked up 105 yard against them last year, and a healthy Bush.

Bush drew the ire of several Bears, especially Ogunleye, in the 2006 NFC championship game when he showboated at the end of an 88-yard TD that started with a short pass.

"I'll definitely get another shot at him," Ogunleye said, "not just because of that, but just because he's a (heck) of a player, and you always want to go up against the best in the league.

"I haven't talked to him about (showing up the Bears). I said what I had to say (after) that game. We got over it. We won the game. So hopefully he's learned his lesson about that."

A national TV audience will be the judge.

Injury update: The Bears on Wednesday listed running back Garrett Wolfe (hamstring), wide receiver Marty Booker (ribs) and fullback Jason McKie (quad) as doubtful for tonight. None are expected to play.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) and tight end Desmond Clark (hamstring) both were listed as probable and are expected to start.