1:00 PM ET, September 18, 2011
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
The Bears are heading into their next game in a decidedly more somber mood.
Urlacher is expected to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints despite leaving Chicago earlier in the week after the death of his mother.
Urlacher scored his team's final points in a 30-12 home victory over Atlanta last Sunday by returning a fumble for a touchdown and set up another TD with a diving interception. He also had a team-best 10 tackles as the Bears held the Falcons to two field goals during a matchup of the NFC's top two squads from a year ago.
As it began preparations for this week's game, Chicago got the stunning news of the passing of Urlacher's 51-year-old mother, Lavoyda Lenard, at her home in Texas on Monday.
Urlacher left the Bears and missed Wednesday's practice, but he returned to the team Thursday.
"Sometimes when you're going through tough times like he is right now you want to get back with your support group, which is here with his teammates," coach Lovie Smith said. "It was good to get him back, see his face and show some support that way. Football is pretty important to him. So you know he's excited about playing the game this Sunday."
Even with Urlacher likely to play, it might fall on quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears offense to carry a little more of the burden while dealing with a raucous Superdome crowd.
An improved performance in the red zone could help. Chicago ranked 30th in scoring percentage from inside the 20 last year at 78.4 and had to settle for two field goals in three chances last week.
"We've just got to get better in the red zone," Cutler said. "We've just got to hammer out some of these details because we left 14-21 points off the board."
The Saints are hoping to keep a few more points off the scoreboard after a 42-34 loss in Week 1 to defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay.
"We realize we can be a lot better. We're going to be a lot better," cornerback Jabari Greer said. "It's the first game. It's a long season. ... We're not looking at ourselves and thinking that we are worse than we are. We realize that we have a lot of talented guys in this room."
New Orleans' offense generated 477 yards with Drew Brees passing for 419 and three TDs. The Saints, though, missed their chance to tie the game when rookie Mark Ingram was stopped at the 1 on the final play.
"You've got to get a yard," Ingram said. "It's goal line to win the game, got to get a yard."
New Orleans might have to try to bounce back from that defeat without a pair of receivers, including Marques Colston, the team leader last season with 84 receptions and 1,023 yards.
Colston could miss four weeks after breaking his collar bone while making a diving catch in the final seconds of the season opener. Lance Moore sat out that game with a sore groin, and his status is unknown for Sunday.
"We feel pretty good about being able to fill in (for Colston) and in the meantime continue the rehab on Marques and get him up to speed as soon as he can," coach Sean Payton said.
In his return to New Orleans, former Tulane star Matt Forte, who had 158 total yards and a TD in the opener, will try to help the Bears extend a four-game win streak over the Saints, which includes the 2007 NFC championship at Soldier Field.
If history is an indication, Chicago might also need kicker Robbie Gould's help during its first game at the Superdome since 2005.
In the Bears' most recent matchup with the Saints in 2008, Gould made a 28-yard field goal in the final seconds of regulation and a 35-yarder in overtime to give his team a 27-24 victory.
He also converted a 28-yard attempt with six seconds left during the previous game in New Orleans, a 20-17 win in 2005 that snapped a three-game skid at the Superdome.
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1. Handle a hostile environment: New Orleans is a tough place to play, and the Saints will be eager to redeem themselves after their Thursday night loss on national TV. New Orleans allowed an amazing 202 yards of total offense in the first quarter in Green Bay and 42 points in the game. But the Saints have a long week to prepare for their home opener. Expect them to be extremely well prepared. Chicago did cause three turnovers in its victory over Atlanta. Winning the turnover battle would be huge for the Bears.
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New Orleans Saints
|Avg Points Allowed||21.0||27.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CHI|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CHI|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Chicago leads 4-3|
|Dec 11, 2008||CHI 27, NO 24|
|Dec 30, 2007||CHI 33, NO 25|
|Jan 21, 2007||CHI 39, NO 14|
|Nov 6, 2005||CHI 20, @NO 17|
|Oct 12, 2003||CHI 13, @NO 20|
|Sep 22, 2002||CHI 23, NO 29|