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New Orleans Saints 2006 Season Home Games - Tickets
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2006 New Orleans Saints Season Tickets (Full Regular Season Package: Includes regular season home games only)

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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6:00 PM

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Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Tickets 9/25

7:30 PM

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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12:00 PM

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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12:00 PM

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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12:00 PM

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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12:00 PM

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints Tickets 12/17

12:00 PM

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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12:00 PM

Superdome in New Orleans, LA

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Chicago Bears 2005 News and Notes

Bears Rookie QB Kyle Orton confident long distance connections will come

By Larry Mayer
October 26, 2005

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - On his first snap as Bears starting quarterback, Kyle Orton rainbowed a nifty 47-yard completion to Muhsin Muhammad in the preseason finale against the Browns.

Orton has failed to connect on any long passes during the regular season, overthrowing receivers on a handful of deep balls the past two weeks in wins over Minnesota and Baltimore.

Rookie Kyle Orton will make his seventh straight start in Sunday's first place clash in Detroit.

But the fourth-round draft pick, who developed into an accurate deep passer at Purdue, is confident that he will soon start to make those long distance connections.

"One of the strengths of my game is completing the ball down the field," Orton said. "We've had some decent looks and we haven't hit them. But that stuff's going to come. We'll be fine in that. We'll keep working and keep getting better and we'll hit them down the road."

Orton overthrew Muhammad on the Bears' first play from scrimmage against the Vikings and overshot rookie Mark Bradley on a third down pass last week versus the Ravens. Orton's longest completion of the season is a 28-yard TD pass to Muhammad in a Week 2 win over the Lions.

"We're not executing it to perfection yet, the way we need to be doing it in the months of November and December," Muhammad said. "(But) I think we can still get to that point."

Although Orton is being asked to manage the offense and limit mistakes, the rookie quarterback insists that the Bears will continue to take shots down the field and not rely solely on their strong running game and stifling defense.

"We obviously don't want to turn the ball over, but we're not going to play passive or play not to turn the ball over," said Orton, who has thrown just one interception in his last 105 pass attempts.

"We're going to take our shots and if we get a one-on-one match-up, we're going to throw the ball up and see if our receiver can make the play. We're not becoming a passive offense and being scared to turn the ball over now and then."

Since throwing five interceptions in a Week 3 loss to the Bengals, Orton has four touchdown passes and just one interception in three starts against the Browns, Vikings and Ravens.

Facing a Baltimore defense that ranked second in the NFL last Sunday at Soldier Field, he completed 15 of 29 passes for 145 yards and 1 TD while leading an offense that didn't commit a turnover in a 10-6 win.

"It was really big, but we're not shocked by the way he played," said Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz. "We expect that out of him. But to play against that defense the way he did, he was very efficient and that meant a lot for us.

"He has confidence and he's learning this year. Quarterback is a hard position to play and then he's a rookie, so he's going to keep getting better and he's going to get more and more confidence and we're going to get better while he gets better."

Sunday's first place showdown in Detroit will mark the first time that Orton has ever played an opponent twice in the same season. He registered career highs in yards (150), quarterback rating (103.3) and completion percentage (66.7) in a 38-6 rout over the Lions Sept. 18 at Soldier Field.

"It will be interesting to see what type of adjustments they make," Orton said. "We played pretty well against them and did some good things. You'll (be able to) tell on the first couple series what they're going to do to adjust and what we can do to counter that."

On Sunday, Orton will become the first Bears rookie quarterback to start seven games since Jim McMahon in 1982. In his first six contests, the former Purdue star has completed 93 of 168 passes for 819 yards with 5 TDs, 7 interceptions and a 61.1 quarterback rating.

"I still have got a lot to learn and have got a lot of room for improvement, but I feel more comfortable," Orton said. "I don't really feel like I'm seeing anything new now.

"I've seen it all and I'm still a guy young. I'm getting better every week. That's a good sign, but my expectations of playing well are a lot higher."

Bears remember lessons of forgettable '04

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Amnesia is a good thing if you're Lovie Smith and the conversation has turned toward fixing the NFL's worst offense.

The second-year Chicago Bears coach is a smooth, optimistic salesman type by nature. But when considering the pitfalls of his offense in 2004, he sounds like the patient who cannot bear to revisit thoughts of a horrible event.

"I have a short memory, so you have to forgive me," Smith says while standing on the edge of the practice field. "I'm trying to forget most of the stuff that happened last year. There's no way to sugarcoat it. We were bad.

"But it's a different year. You start over from scratch."

Reality is also an ally when your team led the NFL last season in punts, lost fumbles, three-and-outs and Excedrin headaches.

Chicago — which lost quarterback Rex Grossman in Week 3 to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and started four quarterbacks in 2004 — ranked dead last in the NFL last season in points, yards, passing yards, sacks allowed and at least a half-dozen other categories.

No wonder Smith wants to black it out.

With a 5-11 finish, they were the Bad News Bears of reality TV.

It was so appalling that Smith, whose career has been built teaching rock-solid defense, essentially burned the playbook and kicked first-time coordinator Terry Shea to the curb to christen yet another offensive makeover for a franchise seemingly stuck in an overhaul mode.

It is rare for a coach to scrap a system after just one year, but apparently Smith, the former St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator, didn't believe that patience in the scheme would be part of the cure.

"There was nothing wrong with the system," Smith says. "The system we had last year is working in St. Louis and Kansas City. It just wasn't a good fit for us. Once you know it ... you've got to change it."

Enter Ron Turner. He's the new and old offensive coordinator. Turner directed Chicago's offense from 1993-96 and was the man calling the plays when quarterback Erik Kramer rewrote the franchise's major single-season passing records in 1995.

After eight years as head coach at Illinois, Turner is having a few flashbacks.

Says Turner, "The first priority is to rebuild the confidence."

After Shea, John Shoop and Gary Crowton, Turner is the fourth O-coordinator in four years — and the only one not in the role for the first time in the NFL.

"When he stands up in front of the room, everybody listens to him," four-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz says. "Not a knock on the other guys, but none of them had ever done it before.

"The first step toward confidence is confidence in the man who's teaching it to you. He knows what he's talking about. Not to knock the other guy, but I didn't see that in anybody's eyes."

Off to an encouraging start

If the first dress rehearsal is any indication, there is indeed hope for a turnaround. Unveiling Turner's aggressive passing attack, Chicago produced 27 points in a preseason-opening victory against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.

Sure, it was a preseason game with fourth-stringers galore. But the Bears scored 27 points in a game, preseason or regular season, just once last season.

"We'd definitely take that," Smith said after Monday night's game. "It's documented what our offense did last year. A lot has changed since then."

The Bears wasted little time addressing offensive needs in the offseason. The signing of tackle Fred Miller, a salary-cap casualty of the Tennessee Titans, bolstered the line. The top four draft picks were spent on offense, beginning with Texas running back Cedric Benson, chosen fourth overall.

Although Benson has yet to reach contract terms, when he finally arrives he's expected to challenge incumbent Thomas Jones for the starting job. At the very least, the 220-pounder could be the inside basher for a one-two punch with Jones.

Receiver Mark Bradley, a second-round pick, looked like a keeper with his Hall of Fame Game-record 131 receiving yards. Quarterback Kyle Orton was considered a good value pick in the fourth round.

The most proven addition by far, however, is all-pro receiver Muhsin Muhammad, lured with a six-year, $30 million contract after being released by the Carolina Panthers in a salary-cap move. A glimpse of his big-play ability was evident Monday when he got open for a 34-yard, over-the-shoulder catch that set up the first touchdown.

"That's execution," Muhammad says, reminded of how he and Grossman connected on similar stutter-and-fade patterns during practice. "You want to take it from the practice field to the game. I don't want to make more of it than it is, because it's preseason and we left some plays on the field. But that was a decent start for us, something we can build on."

Muhammad led the NFL last season with 1,405 receiving yards and 16 touchdown catches and was as pivotal as any weapon as Carolina rebounded from a 1-7 start with five consecutive victories to get into the December playoff chase. In the second half of the season, Muhammad led the league with 62 catches, 1,009 yards and 12 touchdown grabs, a hot streak that has fueled the high expectations in the Windy City.

"I can deal with it," Muhammad says. "I felt a lot of pressure, too, when we needed to win every game down the stretch and everybody in the park knew they were going to throw the ball to me. I think I handled it well."

Muhammad, Grossman connect

Muhammad, 32, signed with the Bears on Feb. 27, just two days after the Panthers cut him rather than pay a $10 million roster bonus. He could have waited for the free agency period to open and sought more dollars — or maybe signed with an established contender.

But he compares Chicago's situation to what he experienced in Carolina. The Panthers finished 1-15 in 2001, then catapulted to a Super Bowl berth in two years.

"There were a lot of components in place," Muhammad says. "They had some injuries, some guys coming back. I was thoroughly impressed with their defense. I know how Lovie is about defense. They have a lot of upside, and I felt like I could come in and provide a little leadership, guidance and make some plays."

Coaches and teammates are impressed enough with Muhammad's skills. But they rave even more about his work ethic in the weight room and upbeat vibe.

Grossman became so quickly enamored with Muhammad that he invited him to his wedding in June.

"Moose can fit in anywhere," Kreutz says, "because he's such a professional."

Competition for the No. 2 and No. 3 receiving roles is one of the keys of camp. The Bears need someone to provide balance. Bradley, second-year deep threat Bernard Berrian and Justin Gage, a big, 6-4 target, are among the front-runners.

Of the three, Gage has the most experience with five pro starts and 29 catches. Bobby Wade, who caught 40 passes but zero touchdowns in 2004, is in the mix, too.

"I'm looking for a complete receiver," wideouts coach Darryl Drake says. "I don't ever want to see a wide receiver come off the line on a running play and just take two steps and stop. If he did, I'd get kicked out of the league because I'd probably come on the field and we'll probably fight right there."

That's the kind of aggressive punch the Bears hope to establish after ranking among the NFL's top 10 on offense just once in nine years (eighth in 1999).

Like most coaches, Turner wants balance between his rushing and passing games.

"Yet you've got to score points to win in this league," he says, "and to score points you've got to make plays down the field."

That means beating the blitzes that have increased since Turner's last NFL stint.

"On first down, you're going to see eight men in the box every time," Turner says. "They try to force you into second- and third-and-long. Then they play 'Cover 2' to make it tough to throw the ball because they're going to drop everybody off.

"The biggest thing for Rex is just to run the offense, because he's got all the talent in the world."

Grossman, who has learned four offenses since his days at Florida under Steve Spurrier, is buying into Turner's approach.

"I'm going to naturally make plays. I'm not going to force anything," Grossman says. "There's a fine line between just being a gunslinger and running the offense. I'd like to be 90% running offense, with that other 10% being my own personality."

When trouble arises, Grossman can turn to Muhammad.

"There's an ebb and flow to a season," Muhammad says. "He needs to know that everything won't always be roses. It's how you bounce back that determines how successful you are."

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