With the exception of one drive by the offense and a few timely stops by the defense, the Bears were thoroughly outplayed in the first half.
Still, they trailed just 16-10.
Then, they regained momentum in the third quarter, with the defense forcing two three-and-outs and the offense cobbling together a scoring drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal from Robbie Gould.
But, with the score 16-13, the Saints rattled off the next 17 points. And, by and large, the Saints called off the dogs early in the fourth quarter.
"I thought our energy and our effort overcame some of the early mistakes we made," Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Here are the red-flag concerns, in my opinion:
* Third downs -- Both on offense and defense. Let's start with the latter.
When the game mattered, the Saints were six of 12. All three Saints' touchdowns were on third down, most notably a 3rd and 12, when Drew Brees connected with Devery Henderson for a 79-yard strike.
Here are a
On the flip side, the Bears were two of 12.
* The Bears attempted 12 runs -- That's for the game. After attempting 10 in the first half for 49 yards (most of them on a 42-yarder by Matt Forte), the Bears tried two more in the third and that's it. Sure, those two runs netted a loss of one yard. But, given the pressure Jay Cutler was under, the Bears needed to blend in some more runs. Long-established offenses like the Patriots or the Colts can get away with not running the ball. But the Bears obviously cannot. Cutler attempted 45 passes. That's not a good recipe for the Bears.
Cutler was sacked six times. But five of those were in the fourth quarter, when the Bears were desperately trying to get back in. I think the greater concern was blitz recognition, which is a little more encouraging than saying the players just aren't athletic enough to get the job done.
* The Bears are holding their breath on injuries. Not only did Chris Harris, Roy Williams and Marion Barber miss the game, Bears receiver Earl Bennett (chest), right tackle Gabe Carimi (knee) and safety Major Wright (head) could not finish the game. They got through last season, relatively unscathed, but the Bears are having some serious ones now.
As if the concern at safety weren't bad enough, now it's even more heightened with Wright's status up in the air.
* Lastly, the Bears defense and special teams were fairly quiet. The special teams played to a draw with the Saints, while the defense didn't play with nearly the same intensity as the season opener.
Here's the ultimate insult.
"I made the comment on the sideline that I wouldn't want to play against [Saints defense]today," receiver Devery Henderson said. "They were real physical out there. I love to see that from our defense."