NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take one: Not perfect but convincing
The first test has been passed. True, it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t have to be. Once the Saints got rolling, the issue was never really in doubt. Chicago hung in early in the game with some stout defense. But in the end, the Saints were the superior team, and thoroughly defeated the Bears to move on to the divisional round of the playoffs.
Take two: Defense dominates
In the first quarter, the Bears ran a trick play where David Montgomery took the shotgun snap, handed it to Cordarrelle Patterson, who handed it off to Mitchell Trubisky, while lined up wide. Javon Wims ran a go-route down the field, and was wide open in the end zone. Trubisky dropped a dime to Wims. It should have been six. But Wims couldn’t hang on in the end zone, stunning the Bears and the Saints.
They were never the same again. It felt like they put a lot of thought into executing that play, and that was their one chance to take hold of the game. Once it failed, the Bears offense was finished. They wouldn’t come close to hitting paydirt again until the very last play of the game.
That’s how dominant the Saints defense was Sunday. They only allowed 239 total yards, surrendered just nine points, and gave up just one third down on ten tries.
Their complete effort carried the team, while the offense took some time to find their footing in the game.
Take three: A tale of two halves on offense
It wasn’t the clean, efficient effort that it was a week ago. Instead, the Saints started off solid, then went ice cold in the first half. On their second drive of the game, Drew Brees connected with Michael Thomas for his first touchdown of the season, and the Saints first score of the game.
Their next four drives went: missed field goal, fumble, punt, and punt. They went into halftime much closer than it needed to be up, 7-3.
The ice began to thaw in the second half when Brees broke the seal on a 38-yard completion to Thomas on third down. That drive went 12 plays, and chewed up 7:29 of the clock. It ended with an incredible ad-lib style touchdown from Brees to Latavius Murray. They followed that with a 15-play drive, that took 8:54 off the clock, it made the score 21-3 to essentially end the game.
Those drives led to a massive 17-minute edge in time of possession. Overall, it wasn’t perfect offensive execution, but they clearly made enough plays to win the game.
Take four: Deonte Harris with the spark
Of all the scenarios that played out Sunday, Deonte Harris being such a force in the receiving game was the one I least expected.
The smallest guy on the field came up big all game. He finished with seven receptions for 83 yards. Five of those receptions came on critical third down to keep drives alive.
There was a lot of talk about Michael Thomas’ return to the lineup, and rightfully so. But it was the return of Harris that may have had the biggest impact on the game.
Take Five: Other observations
- Thomas finished with five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. It was his first time in the end zone since their December matchup last year against Tennessee. Thomas should only ascend as the playoffs continue.
- I’ve never witnessed a Saints player consistently get under the skin of their opponents the way C.J. Gardner-Johnson does. He got another Bears wide receiver tossed when Anthony Miller threw a punch at CJGJ after a play. You recall, he also got Wims tossed in their Week 8 matchup. The crazy thing is, after the game, Bears coach Matt Nagy said they showed Bears receivers how much of an instigator CJGJ can be and not to take the bait. Apparently, Miller didn’t listen and lost his cool.
- All week we said if Kamara was available, he was going to play despite not practicing all week. Kamara didn’t really miss a beat. He grinded out 99 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. After the game, he said not playing in the season finale felt like a ‘first-round bye’ for him.
- The Saints may not have had the same dominance in the run game against the Bears, but they did stick with it. They still ran it 35 times, despite only averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
- Wil Lutz missed another field goal Sunday. He’s now missed five of his last nine field goals. Lutz desperately needs to break out of this slump. The games ahead will be too close to miss out on the points Lutz is there to provide. Plus, it could impact coaching situations for Payton if he can’t count on him.
- 11 fumbles for Taysom Hill this season/postseason. It just can’t happen. It happened on a play that was the perfect call. With the Bears thinking run, Deonte Harris was open on the deep post, but it looked like Hill held the ball just a slight count too long. That allowed the defender to come around the edge, and swipe the ball as he threw it. Had he thrown it, it could have been six. Instead, the Bears recovered, and got a field goal out of it.
- An extremely close call on Cole Kmet on the following drive. When it looked like Malcolm Jenkins and he were chatting after a play. Kmet then tossed the ball to the ref and got flagged. Their 3rd & 6 from inside the ten then became a 3rd & 20.
- Buckle up! Brees vs. Brady III is going to be box office.
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