CHICAGO — Practice last week had more than usual of what the Saints their call “heavy personnel packages.”
But still, fullback Jed Collins was surprised to hear his number called so often Sunday.
“I kept asking in the huddle, ‘Really?’” Collins said after having three carries and four receptions, his career high in both categories, in his team’s 26-18 victory.
If that doesn’t sound like much consider this: Collins hadn’t had a rushing attempt since Oct. 23, 2011. And his four catches doubled his total in the Saints’ first four games.
“I’ve learned to manage my expectations,” said Collins, who’s primarily used as a lead blocker. “But we saw some things early in the week where we thought we could take advantage of some short-yardage situations.
“Coach (offensive line coach Bret) Ingalls showed me where I was supposed to go, and I just followed the big fellows. I’m sort of a small big fellow myself, so I knew where to go.”
And the big fellows were glad to accommodate.
“When they called Jed’s number and he got that ball, he got positive yards,” guard Jarhi Evans said.
“That was one of our better plays: the little quick hitter where the defense is moving and we can get leverage.
“You’ve got to be happy for Jed. Jed comes to work every day, and even if he isn’t in on every package, he always works hard.”
Six of Collins’ seven touches did get positive yards (for a net of 28), although only one — a 5-yard catch on the Saints’ opening possession — picked up a first down.
But they did have two intended effects: keeping the Chicago defense off-balance, and keeping the ball in the Saints’ hands.
“We knew on the road that (turnovers) was the one way we were going to lose this game,” said Collins, who had a costly fumble in last year’s loss to the New York Giants. “They’re very effective in doing that, and their offense really capitalizes on (turnovers).
“We got off the bus ready to do it and all week were focused on ball protection. That’s why on a couple of runs maybe we would have been able to break ’em, but we were more concerned about getting back into the huddle.”
Saints coach Sean Payton said keeping the Bears off-balance was important to the game plan.
“Those guys (the Bears) really do a good job of flowing to the backs.” he said. “They’re tough to block, so that little belly play allowed our guys to do some things.
“That’s a real good front we were going against, and those are tough yards.”
Collins said his only disappointment was that with 28 seconds left and the Saints needing 2 yards for a game-clinching first down, Payton elected to punt instead, even though the touchback moved the line of scrimmage before a deliberate delay of game only from the 37 to the 20.
“(Payton) looked at me and give me a nod,” Collins said. “But I kind of knew that it was better to let defense do what it had been doing the whole game.
“That’s managing your expectations.”
And while he may have had a relative moment in the sun Sunday at Soldier Field, Collins said he knows he will probably be back in obscurity in the future more often than not.
“With the offensive weapons we have on this team, I’m probably 11th or 12th on the list,” he said. “It was fun today, though.
“The Bears are one of the (seven) teams that cut me. You always like getting some payback from somebody that let you go.”