Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) takes to the field with defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (91) prior to the start of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. | AP
- Boxscore: Saints 30, Bears 13
- NFL Scoreboard: Scores, stats, updates
- Morrissey: Saints manhandled Bears
- Telander: Saints leave Cutler groggy, froggy
Updated: September 24, 2011 6:29PM
NEW ORLEANS – The Bears collectively wanted to win Sunday for beloved middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the face of the franchise.
On Saturday morning, joined by coaches, executives and teammates, Urlacher buried his mother Lavoyda Lenard in New Mexico, then he rejoined the Bears for a showdown with the New Orleans Saints.
The Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead, after a strong start by the defense and an impressive 11-play, 87-yard touchdown drive from the offense.
But the Saints scored on four consecutive possessions and – after a brief show of life –defensive end Turk McBride raced past tight end Kellen Davis and slammed into quarterback Jay Cutler for a sack and a force fumble that a teammate recovered.
The Saints then responded with two more touchdown drives, a four-yarder to receiver Robert Meachem and a 12-yarder to backup running back Darren Sproles.
After all the goodwill generated following a 30-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener, the Bears re-opened some familiar issues in a 30-13 throttling at the hands of the Saints at the Louisiana Superdome.
The offensive line had an assortment of leaks, with Cutler taking several hard blind-sided shots from the blitz-happy Saints, and the only offensive player who could gain any yards was Matt Forte, a native of nearby Slidell who starred at Tulane.
Forte had 165 combined yards, by the early fourth quarter. But the Bears depth was tested, with key free-agent acquisitions Roy Williams and Marion Barber inactive for the game. Then, in the first quarter, slot receiver Earl Bennett suffered a chest injury after a first-down catch, and he was replaced by Dane Sanzenbacher.
The rookie out of Ohio State scored an eight-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but he had a costly drop in the third quarter on a much-needed third-down play.
Many of the issues were due to pass protection.
Cutler didn’t have any issues early on but the Bears abandoned the run by the third quarter, when they had just two carries, with offensive coordinator Mike Martz dialing up pass after pass. While Cutler was sacked three times, he was pressured and drilled on a number of other occasions.
That rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi left the game in the second quarter with a right knee injury didn’t help matters.
But the defense didn’t fare much better.
The Saints, unlike the Bears, didn’t abandon the run, even though they were having more modest success. But the difference was the command of Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who made some brilliant throws and his receivers some brilliant catches. None was nicer than receiver Devery Henderson’s 79-yard touchdown.
On the play, he had a step on safety Major Wright, and Brees delivered a ball just in front of Henderson’s out-stretched arms.
With veteran Chris Harris out with a hamstring injury, the Bears started newcomer Brandon Meriweather. But Wright had his share of struggles, and he left the game with a head injury.
The Bears defense mustered just one sack, and cornerback Charles Tillman forced a fumble in the fourth quarter that he also recovered.
Bears host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at Soldier Field.