The New Orleans Saints escaped the shores of Lake Michigan Sunday with a 26-23 overtime victory over the Chicago Bears. It was a weird game. The 32nd ranked Chicago running game was actually effective against a normally stout New Orleans run defense. Kicker Wil Lutz missed a short field goal attempt.
Bears wideout Javon Wims sucker-punched Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, triggering a brawl that resulted in Wims' ejection. The Saints were effective in early downs offensively but were just 2 of 13 on 3rd down attempts and failed to convert a single third down in the second half.
New Orleans made some plays in the secondary but again gave up big plays at key moments and allowed the Bears to score twice in the final four minutes to send the game into overtime. Some key plays on special teams and two big returns from Deonte Harris set up crucial scores.
A Saints offense that was missing its top three wide receivers clawed for yardage against the formidable Chicago defense, and Lutz rebounded to hit two second-half field goals and nail the game-winner in overtime.
The scrappy Saints got some big plays in all three phases of the game, but here were the biggest performers from this crucial road win.
MARCUS DAVENPORT, DEFENSIVE END
Davenport shared the first of five sacks on Chicago QB Nick Foles and added two more QB hits and four tackles. The entire New Orleans defensive line had a disruptive afternoon rushing the passer, with other standout performances from Cam Jordan, David Onyemata, Trey Hendrickson, and linebacker Demario Davis.
It was Davenport who had arguably the most consistent outing. He pushed LT Charles Leno into the Chicago backfield throughout the game, creating constant pressure that forced Foles out of the pocket.
ERIK MCCOY, CENTER
Guards Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz both had solid games, getting a good push for the running game and providing an effective inside pocket for Drew Brees. Tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead also controlled the Chicago edge rush, allowing just one sack and limiting All-Pro Khalil Mack's impact. Second-year center Erik McCoy had the biggest day of the Saints’ big boys upfront.
McCoy keyed a New Orleans running game that picked up 122 yards on the day. He made crucial blocks that created cutback lanes for Alvin Kamara during the game and on two Taysom Hill 1st down runs.
McCoy helped form the interior wall that protected Brees. He not only won his one-on-one battles but expertly switched to help Peat or Ruiz for double-teams that stifled the Bears inside pass rush.
DREW BREES, QUARTERBACK
Brees peppered an opportunistic Chicago secondary for 280 yards and two touchdowns on 31 of 41 passing without an interception. He completed 16 of 19 throws in the first half and overcame a sack to lead the Saints on a nine-play drive for 67 yards, with just 1:34 left in the first half for a touchdown to narrow their deficit to 13-10.
He nimbly avoided pressure from the Bears several times to avoid a sack or buy time for his receivers, leading his team to the game-winning drive in overtime. Brees did it with his top three wideouts sidelined, finding ten different receivers and keeping the aggressive Chicago defense on their heels throughout the game.
ALVIN KAMARA, RUNNING BACK
Kamara continued his torrid pace to the year, rolling up 163 yards from scrimmage against a defense geared to stop him. Despite a few drops, Kamara led all receivers in the game with 9 catches for 96 yards.
He added 67 rushing yards, including two long runs that set up vital scores. Kamara shouldered the offensive load again, making Chicago defenders miss in the open field for extra yardage in a game where every inch mattered.
Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees were the perfect examples of a Saints team fighting for every play in all three phases. They overcame adversity and their own mistakes to earn a hard-earned road win with a shorthanded offense.
The 5-2 Saints now set their sites on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week in a battle for first place in the NFC South. New Orleans expects their receiving corps to be back at full strength for that matchup, but have proven to have the depth and perseverance to succeed regardless of the players on the field.