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Saints slip past Chicago

Despite a slippery track on Soldier Field, New Orleans stays unbeaten with 26-18 win over the Bears

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."

    



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