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Defensive Bears to leave Saints out in the cold

1. Chilly Chicago

The winds blowing off Lake Michigan can make Soldier Field into hell frozen over. This is the latest in January that the Bears ever have played a game in the Windy City. The Bears have only a 4-5 record in January postseason games and a 5-7 mark for all games. Temperatures have ranged from 4 degrees (loss to Washington in 1987) to 40 degrees (loss to Carolina last Jan. 15). . . . The Saints, who play indoors, visited only two cold-weather spots after Nov. 1. They lost at Pittsburgh, 38-31, in 39-degree weather. Their 30-7 win over the Giants in the Meadowlands on Christmas Eve was played in 52-degree weather. The last three January postseason games in Chicago have produced 52, 50 and 51 points.

2. A fresh Brees

A new coach, the elimination of veteran malcontents and drafting Reggie Bush and Marques Colston changed the woe-is-me culture of the Saints. However, signing quarterback Drew Brees was the most important move. Brees brought an upbeat attitude and an unflappable demeanor to the Saints and led the NFL with 4,417 passing yards for the No. 1 offense in the league.

3. King Rex

Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman has been the most talked about postseason performer, but for the wrong reasons. He rebounded last week, passing for 282 yards and a 68-yard touchdown to Bernard Berrian in the 27-24 overtime win over Seattle. Grossman did throw one interception, but his 37-yard strike to Rashied Davis to set up the winning field goal in overtime trumped that. Grossman is more effective when the Bears can run, which they usually do effectively with Thomas Jones (1,210 yards, 6 TDs) and Cedric Benson (647, 6).

4. New Monsters

The Bears always seem to have a brute in the middle of their defense. Brian Urlacher is that and more. He leads the new version of the Monsters of the Midway. Here are the pertinent numbers for the Bears: 294.1 yards allowed per game (fifth in the league), 99.4 rushing average, 40 sacks, 20 fumble recoveries, 24 interceptions, three defensive returns for touchdowns. The Bears have carried on despite season-ending injuries to DT Tommie Harris and S Mike Brown. . . . The Bears defense must deal with a diversified New Orleans offense. Deuce McAllister is a strong runner inside and the Saints are always looking to get the ball to Bush in the open field, usually on passes (88 catches in regular season). Top receiver Joe Horn has been absent with a groin injury and is doubtful today, but the Saints' Colston (70 catches, 8 TDs) and Devery Henderson (32 catches, 5 TDs) have more than compensated.

5. Good as Gould

Robbie Gould, who was working construction in 2005 when he got invited to Bears training camp, kicked the tying and winning field goals against Seattle last week. He went into the season as the most accurate kicker in Bears' history after making 21 of 27 in 2005. This year he was 32 of 36. John Carney and Saints rookie punter Steve Weatherford will have to keep the ball away from Chicago's rookie return man, Devin Hester, who had six return TDs this season -- three punts, two kickoffs and one field goal.

Outlook: Bears better suited for a cold war. Chicago, 21-17.


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