The Bears had hoped to get backup running back Marion Barber back into the swing of things Sunday, but that’s not going to happen.
He’s missing the second straight regular-season game and hasn’t been a factor for the Bears because of an injury since Aug. 27, which is opening the door for more carries for Kahlil Bell in a supporting role to Matt Forte.
Bell showed up well in the preseason, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The veteran is on the roster specifically to add this kind of depth to the running back corps. The 5'11", 219-pound Bell may be asked to take the ball on short-yardage plays and in the red zone—places where the Bears have traditionally been weak over the last few seasons.
Chicago ranked 30th in scoring from inside the 20-yard line last year and last week, in the opener against the Atlanta Falcons, wound up settling for field goals twice in three chances inside the zone.
Leaving points off the scoreboard isn’t something the Bears, who beat the Falcons, can afford to do against a team of the Saints' quality.
Bell is going to get the ball; he had 10 carries to the 16 times Forte packed it last week. Bell had just 24 yards, but the Bears are optimistic that number is going to get better as Bell gets more carries.
The good news for the Bears is that the Saints, as good as they are, are vulnerable to a two-pronged rushing attack. New Orleans, 16th against the run last season, saw Green Bay’s James Starks and Ryan Grant combine for 97 yards on 21 carries in Week 1.