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10/06/2013 10:31 PM EDT
Brees leads Saints past Bears 26-18
NEW ORLEANS 26, CHICAGO 18

By JAY COHEN
AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- Drew Brees passed to Jimmy Graham along the
sideline. He found the tight end over the middle. They hooked up
for long plays and short ones, all over the field.

That New Orleans connection was just too much for the Chicago
Bears.

Brees threw two touchdown passes, Graham tied an NFL record with
another 100-yard game and the Saints beat the Bears 26-18 on
Sunday to remain unbeaten.

"We knew the formula coming into this game was to remain
patient, to run the football effectively, to be very efficient
in the passing game and to take care of the football, priority
No. 1," Brees said, "and we were able to do all those things."

Brees was 29-of-35 passing for 288 yards in his first victory in
four career games at Soldier Field. Garrett Hartley matched a
career high with four field goals as New Orleans (5-0) picked up
its first win in Chicago since a 31-10 victory on Oct. 8, 2000.

Graham continued his torrid start for the Saints, catching 10
balls for 135 yards in his fourth consecutive 100-yard game -
matching an NFL record for a tight end. Tony Gonzalez was the
first to accomplish the streak in 2000, and Graham matched the
surge in 2011.

Graham and Brees said they spent more time together during the
offseason, and it looks as if all that work is paying off.

"I'm just blessed to be with such a great quarterback and a guy
who has so much trust in me," Graham said.

Graham helped the Saints hold onto the ball for 36 minutes, and
Brees' team had no turnovers. The ball control was crucial with
Alshon Jeffery putting together a career day for the Bears
(3-2).

Jeffery had 10 receptions for a franchise-record 218 yards,
breaking Harlon Hill's mark of 214 at San Francisco on Oct. 31,
1954. He also had a 3-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter.

"What I did out there, I'm more concerned about the `W,' not
about what I did," he said. "It's a team thing. It took 11 guys
to get 200-plus yards or whatever I had."

Jeffery's 58-yard catch set up Jay Cutler's 2-yard touchdown
pass to Brandon Marshall, and Matt Forte ran in the 2-point
conversion to trim New Orleans' lead to 26-18 with 2:11
remaining.

The Bears got the ball back with 21 seconds left and no
timeouts. Cutler then passed to Jeffery in the middle of the
field for 21 yards, but time expired before they could run
another play.

"It's just a few plays here and there," said Cutler, who was 24
of 33 for 358 yards and two touchdowns in Chicago's second
straight loss. "Against a team like that, the way they played
offensively and ate up the clock it's hard to rebound if you
miss three or four plays in the game."

It took a while for Brees to get started, but New Orleans'
defense made sure he had plenty of time to get warmed up.

The Saints sacked Cutler twice while limiting the Bears to one
first down in the first quarter. Chicago had just 51 yards when
it got the ball back with 5:57 left in the first half.

After two field goals by Hartley - including a 19-yard chip shot
after Cutler fumbled on a sack by Malcolm Jenkins deep in
Chicago territory - Brees started to find his rhythm. He
connected with Graham on pass plays of 29 and 38 yards to get
New Orleans to the 7 with 7:23 left in the half.

This time, the Saints got into the end zone.

Brees rolled out on second down and flipped the ball to Pierre
Thomas, who fought through D.J. Williams' tackle attempt and
extended his right arm over the goal line for the 2-yard
touchdown that made it 13-0 with 5:57 remaining.

"When my name is called to do the job, I go out there and do my
best," said Thomas, a Chicago native. "That's all I can really
ask for. When my name is called, just go out there and perform."

The Bears responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended
with Jeffery's TD. But they gave the ball back to Brees with
2:41 left in the half, plenty of time for the star QB to direct
another scoring drive.

Thomas had a big 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 27,
and then went 25 yards for the score on a screen play with 23
seconds to go.

Thomas' second TD reception made it 20-7 and was the result of a
perfect call by Payton, who still has a deft touch when it comes
to play-calling after missing last season as a result of the
bounty scandal.

"It was a screen play away from the pressure," Brees said. "So
you had everybody going one direction and here we are throwing a
screen and getting linemen out. The key is your ability to get
linemen out and down the field.

"That was a big play. Big momentum gainer going into halftime."

NOTES: The Saints also won a road game against the Bears in
2002, but that victory came in Champaign because Soldier Field
was being renovated. ... Bears DT Nate Collins hurt his left
knee in the third quarter and did not return. ... Bears DT
Stephen Paea was inactive due to a toe injury. Landon Cohen got
the start just 10 days after he was signed off waivers.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

---

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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