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Bears kept calling Jones' number Second-quarter drive highlights attack

It's called 42 Mike, a running play where the running back takes a delayed handoff and runs behind the right side of the offensive line.

It's one of Thomas Jones' favorites, and with good reason.

The Chicago Bears called Jones' number eight consecutive times and the New Orleans Saints were helpless trying to stop it. Sixty-nine yards later, he was in the end zone.

"This was one of the drives when we kept calling the same play over and over," Jones said. "Our line did a great job of giving me a couple of different creases to run through. That drive, I guess it was one of those things where we had the momentum."

In an NFC Championship Game that had plenty of ebb and flow, the Bears' running game was the one constant. That second-quarter drive highlighted a dominant rushing attack that helped propel them to a 39-14 victory over the Saints.

Jones and sidekick Cedric Benson were a formidable 1-2 punch on Sunday, leading a running game that finished with 196 yards. Jones finished the day with 19 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Benson ran 24 times for 60 yards and a score.

Jones and Benson allowed the Bears to control the clock and keep the Saints' explosive offense off the field.

"We felt like we would come in and run the football," Jones said. "The offensive line has done a great job of saving me and getting Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson to run. We saw some things in the [Saints'] defense from previous games."

What the Bears saw was a Saints front seven that couldn't get much penetration and had trouble getting off blocks. They also saw that 42 Mike would work.

However, it seemed like every running play the Bears called worked. The elusive Jones dodged and darted past defenders, using his quickness and vision to exploit cutback lanes against the Saints' over-pursuing unit.

When Jones wasn't running around the Saints, Benson was running through them. Benson used his 5-foot-11, 220-pound as a battering ram, powering ahead for short but effective gains.

Benson carried 12 times in 18 offensive plays during one first-half stretch, showing that the Bears have two workhorse backs.

"We just had no answer for them," Saints linebacker Mark Simoneau. "Whether it was Thomas Jones or Cedric Benson, they just gashed us."
Especially on the Jones-led drive during which he had the longest run of the day, a nice 33-yard gain. Jones started towards the middle of the line and then bounced to the outside. Cornerback Mike McKenzie made a touchdown-saving tackle.

"I tried to do my best to set the safety up," Jones said. "Once I got in the open field and made some moves I was able to get some extra yards downfield."

Although Bears quarterback Rex Grossman threw for just 144 yards, the running game set up opportunities for him to make some plays later in the game. In fact, his 33-yard touchdown pass came off a variation of 42 Mike.

"It's like that each week for us," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "We're a running football team, and our run sets up the pass. We like to make teams put an extra guy in the box to stop the run and be able to go one-on-one on the outside. We got some of those situations today."

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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