What it means: The Saints proved they don’t need to be in their comfort zone to win. They won a big game on the road, despite having to adjust to the sloppy Soldier Field turf. They relied more on their run game than ever this year. And their defense even mixed things up with more blitzes in the first half, which led to three sacks and a forced fumble.
Of course Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham still played big roles (that never seems to change). But the Saints are proving they can win games in a number of different ways this year, a great sign that they’re legit.
Stock watch: Saints running back Pierre Thomas relishes coming back to his hometown of Chicago, and the Saints counted on him in a big way Sunday. Thomas caught nine passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns. And he ran 19 times for 36 yards. Both of the touchdowns were terrific plays. Thomas stiff-armed linebacker D.J. Williams to turn the corner on a 2-yard swing pass in the second quarter. And he cruised behind great blocking on a vintage 25-yard screen pass shortly before halftime.
Blindsided: The Saints' defense had not been blitzing much this year. They hadn’t needed to, with their front four playing so well. But defensive coordinator Rob Ryan threw some new wrinkles at the Bears in the first half that worked wonders. Safety Malcolm Jenkins got a sack and forced fumble on a blitz. Linebacker David Hawthorne got a sack on a blitz. And safety Kenny Vaccaro got a sack when he and Jenkins both blitzed. Heading into the game, all 12 of the Saints’ sacks this season had come from defensive linemen or outside linebackers.
What’s next: The Saints will have another “prove it” game on the road against the New England Patriots (4-1). The Patriots stole some of the thunder out of the matchup with a rain-drenched loss at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Not only did they spoil the potential battle of unbeatens, but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass ended at 52. So he won’t be challenging Brees' NFL record of 54 in the head-to-head duel. Nevertheless, it will be the biggest game of the week on the NFL slate -- and a big test for both teams.