The Bears will look to win their third straight game and improve to 4-4 Sunday when they visit the Saints in New Orleans. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) How well will the Bears be able to contain another star quarterback in Drew Brees?
Even at 38 years old, Brees is still playing at a very high level. This season the 10-time Pro Bowler has completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 1,652 yards with 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and a stellar 100.0 passer rating. Brees has led the NFL in TD passes four times and in passing yards a record seven times and has passed for over 5,000 yards a record five times.
Bears defensive lineman Eddie Goldman rushes the passer against Tampa Bay.
"He's a veteran quarterback who has been in that offense ever since [Saints coach] Sean Payton has been there," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "He knows the offense as well as Sean Payton. He's a great operator. He dissects defenses, what you're in, what you're not in as good as anybody, throws on rhythm a lot. There is a reason why he holds a lot of these records."
The Bears recorded a season-high five sacks in last Sunday's win over the Panthers, but they'll likely have a more difficult time against Brees, who has been sacked only five times this season.
"He gets it out quick," Fangio said. "Their line is doing a good job of protecting. He's got really good pocket feel. He'll step one way or the other to avoid pressure. You need a good even rush on this guy because he can manipulate the pocket and he does throw it quick."
(2) Will the Bears defense continue to play well and generate takeaways?
The first eight quarterbacks the Bears will have faced this season either have won a Super Bowl (Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco), have been named NFL MVP (Rodgers, Matt Ryan) or have been selected with the No. 1 pick in the draft (Sam Bradford, Jameis Winston). But that hasn't prevented the defense from performing well most of the season.
"I'm waiting to see when we get Eastern Illinois on the schedule or something," Fangio joked. "[Members of the defense] are feeling good. Anytime you play good, it's just like golf. You make a couple long putts, all of a sudden you think you're a good putter. But our guys are feeling good. I think they felt good all year but weren't getting the results. It's nice to get some results."
After mustering just two takeaways in the first five games, the Bears defense has generated three each of the past two weeks in back-to-back wins over the Ravens and Panthers. The unit has turned three of the takeaways into touchdowns while not allowing any TDs in the two games.
"We've gotten takeaways, which we hadn't been getting," Fangio said. "That was really the only thing missing for the most part. Once you get them, it helps the entire team. These have been drastic takeaways with three touchdowns and another one to the opponent's 20. They were not only takeaways but they had a major effect on the game."
(3) Will the Bears rely more on Mitchell Trubisky, and if so, how will he respond?
The rookie quarterback threw only seven passes last Sunday against the Panthers, mainly because the Bears kept the ball on the ground after two Eddie Jackson touchdown returns on defense had given them an early 14-0 lead. "I think last week was an anomaly," said coach John Fox. "You want balance. Those types of things change. You have a 14-point lead. We're doing pretty good defensively. I think that tends to be a little bit more conservative of a game plan. It's not like baseball where there's a final out. This game's timed. The clock is part of the formula and you want to run that as fast as possible when you have the lead."
If last Sunday was in fact an anomaly—and it certainly seems that way given it was the first time the Bears won a game without scoring an offensive touchdown since 2006—it seems logical that the offense will have to rely more on Trubisky's arm in New Orleans. In his first three NFL starts, the second pick in the draft has completed 24 of 48 passes for 348 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 79.2 passer rating.
"I believe in balance, I do," said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. "I believe in this quarterback a lot. I think he's a guy who can handle whatever you're going to give him."
(4) Will new Bears receiver Dontrelle Inman be a factor in the game?
The Bears bolstered their injury-depleted receiver position this week by acquiring the veteran wideout from the Chargers in exchange for a conditional draft pick. Inman practiced with his new teammates for the first time Friday, but it's unclear whether he will play Sunday.
"We got a chance to see him on the field today," Fox said Friday. "Got some work done, had some meeting time [Thursday] night with our offensive coaches. We'll pretty much announce [whether Inman will play] an hour and a half before kickoff."
Inman brings a veteran presence to a young position that's missing its top players. Projected starters Cameron Meredith and Kevin White are on injured reserve, while Markus Wheaton remains sidelined with a groin injury.
Inman, who will wear No. 17 with the Bears, has appeared in 41 games with 23 starts the past four seasons with the Chargers, catching 107 passes for 1,463 yards and seven touchdowns.
No Bears wide receiver has more than 20 catches through seven games. Kendall Wright leads the group with 20 receptions for 236 yards and one touchdown. The other healthy receivers on the 53-man roster are Joshua Bellamy (10-114-0), Tanner Gentry (3-35-0) and Tre McBride III (1-18-0).