LAKE FOREST – At the first mention of Drew Brees’ name Thursday, Bears linebacker Lance Briggs took a deep breath and sighed into the microphone in front of him.
Without uttering a word, Briggs perfectly described this weekend’s toughest challenge.
The Bears (1-0) will have to find a way to slow down Brees when they travel south to face the New Orleans Saints (0-1) on Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome.
If the Bears accomplish that goal, 30 other NFL teams might comb through the game film for the magic formula. Brees has tormented almost every team he has faced in his career, which has included five consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards.
The only other quarterback in NFL history to accomplish that feat is Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.
“He goes through every read, every progression, so you really have to be on your game,” Briggs said. “There’s no receiver option on the field that he won’t utilize on any given pass. He’ll throw the tight ones. He’ll throw to guys when you think they’re covered. He’ll try to fit it in there. He’s somebody you definitely have to prepare for.”
The Bears will have their defensive leader, linebacker Brian Urlacher, who returned to the team Thursday three days after the unexpected death of his mother, Lavoyda Lenard. A contingent of Bears executives, including chairman George McCaskey, president and CEO
Ted Phillips, general manager Jerry Angelo and Smith, will attend the memorial service for Urlacher’s mother Saturday in New Mexico before heading to New Orleans for Sunday’s game.
When the game starts, an injury to one of Brees’ favorite targets could benefit the Bears.
Saints wide receiver Marques Colston broke his collarbone in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers and likely will miss at least a month. Colston surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in four of his past five seasons with the Saints and would have posed matchup problems against the Bears’ secondary because of his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame.
Instead, Brees’ top receiving options likely will be Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson. He also could incorporate tight end Jimmy Graham and a trio of running backs, including undersized all-purpose threat Darren Sproles, in the passing game.
Bears nickelback D.J. Moore said the Saints were dangerous despite Colston’s injury. New Orleans racked up 477 yards of total offense in its season opener against the Packers.
“I think it’s just really [about] Drew Brees,” said Moore, who will face Brees for the first time. “If he has time, if it’s Colston or anybody else, he’s going to get them the ball.”
The Bears’ pass rush was the primary reason why the defense shut down Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in Week 1. Ryan posted a subpar 76.5 passer rating after he was sacked five times, threw an interception and coughed up a fumble at Soldier Field.
However, the Bears face a tougher challenge against the Saints’ offensive line, which includes Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. The line also features ex-Bears center Olin Kreutz, who likely will share everything he knows about his former team.
“Their offensive line is really good,” Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton said. “They’ve got two All-Pro guards, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Melton shrugged when he was asked about the Saints’ new center.
“He’s all right,” Melton said with a smile.