The New Orleans Saints have had a habit in recent years of leaning on Drew Brees and the passing game to be successful, but they have shown an ability to run the ball and play defense during their four-game win streak.
They've run for 354 yards in the last two games and forced 10 turnovers during the win streak. New Orleans (4-2) hopes to continue its winning streak when it plays the Chicago Bears (3-4) on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"It is a good feeling to know that you can run the ball effectively, that you have a pair of backs (Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara) that do a good job both in the base run and the sub run game," Brees said Wednesday. "It just gives us a ton of flexibility. It gives us the opportunity to do a lot.
"The receivers can block, catch and make big plays and the defense is playing outstanding, getting takeaways that have resulted in points for us offensively. That's winning football, when you talk about the formula for winning. If you can do those things consistently, you can win a lot of football games."
New Orleans rushed for 100 yards as a team just once in the first four games, but Ingram has had consecutive 100-yard games by himself.
"We've been committing to it and scheming up well," Ingram said of the run game. "We've been remaining efficient, not panicking and just continue to keep pressing."
The improved play of the defense has enabled the Saints to be more patient with the run game. New Orleans allowed a total of 1,025 yards in the first two games and a total of 1,081 in the last four.
"We all thrive off of each other," Ingram said. "When we see those guys out there making plays, those guys out there getting off the field, those guys out there getting turnovers, it makes us step up. When those guys are coming off the field, they are turned up, they are excited, it is time for us to hold up our end of the bargain and keep that momentum going.
"Having big plays, turnovers, stops and their points, that's how teams thrive altogether when you play complementary football, defense, offense, special teams and you keep that momentum going. When things don't happen your way, you don't panic. You stay even keel, weather the storm and you overcome. Just stay with that belief that no matter what happens in the game, we're going to get this done and I think that's what we have as a team right now."
The Saints allowed a mere 79 yards passing in a 26-17 victory at Green Bay last week.
"Guys are playing with confidence and guys are having fun and flying around and that's all you can ask for on defense," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "If you have 11 guys on defense flying around having fun and playing with the tenacity that we've been playing with, it's going to cover up a lot of mistakes. But all you can do is go out there and play with effort and play with energy and good things will happen."
SERIES HISTORY: 28th regular-season meeting. Saints lead series, 14-13. Saints have won three in a row, including the last meeting (31-15 in 2014 in Chicago) and the last meeting in the Superdome (30-13 in 2011). The Saints lead in games played in New Orleans, 6-5. These teams have met twice in the playoffs. Both games were in Chicago and won by the Bears, who prevailed 16-6 in a first-round game in 1990 and 39-14 in the NFC Championship in 2006.
Even though they were minus-1 in turnovers last week, the Saints remain one of the most proficient teams in that regard. They are plus-5 for the season and have taken the ball away 10 times during their four-game win streak.
"We continue to stress the takeaway/giveaway (ratio)," head coach Sean Payton said. "I've seen it defensively where you spend a lot of time on how you take it away. Generally, if you can apply pressure to the quarterback and he has to throw quicker that can lead to turnovers in the passing game or sack-fumbles. I think conversely, offensively the ball security by those runners or receivers that have it has been good and the same way with the decisions and security in the pocket with Drew (Brees)."
The Saints released cornerback Sterling Moore on Wednesday. His spot on the roster was taken by rookie offensive lineman Cameron Tom, who was elevated from the practice roster as insurance because guard Larry Warford has an abdominal strain. The Saints signed rookie guard Nate Theaker to take Tom's spot on the practice squad.
WR Michael Thomas (knee) was an unexpected addition to the injury report after not participating in practice Wednesday. He caught seven passes last week and was on the field late in the fourth quarter.
G Larry Warford did not participate because of an abdominal strain suffered in last week's game. NFL.com reported that Warford is expected to miss several weeks because of the injury, but head coach Sean Payton was non-committal about Warford's status.
T Terron Armstead (shoulder) did not participate. His absence is likely a precaution because he has played in the last two games as he works his way back from shoulder surgery in June.
WR Willie Snead IV, who has missed two of the last three games because of a hamstring injury, was a full participant.
Copyright © 2017 TTWN Media Networks LLC Photo: Getty Images