The New Orleans Saints advanced to the divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs with a 21-9 home win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. It was a workmanlike performance by the Saints, who controlled the game from the start.
New Orleans took the game’s opening possession into Chicago territory but passed up a long field goal attempt to pin the Bears inside their own 10-yard line. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Saints would get the ball back in excellent field position, a theme for the game. New Orleans would take that second possession into the end zone and never looked back.
The Saints forced Chicago to punt seven times on the afternoon, five after three-and-outs. The Bears would get a first-half field goal after another Taysom Hill fumble deep in New Orleans territory. Outside of that Chicago would enter the Saints side of the 50 just once during the game until the result had been decided.
The offense would control the football for almost 39 minutes of the contest, converting 11 of 17 3rd down opportunities and rolling up 27 first downs and 385 total yards. The Saints would control the ball for drives of 12, 15, and 11 plays in the second half to cement the outcome. Offensively, several New Orleans players showed excellent intensity by fighting for extra yardage all afternoon to keep drives alive.
Drew Brees would complete 28 of his 39 attempts for 265 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. New Orleans welcomed All-Pro WR Michael Thomas back to the lineup, who responded with 5 receptions for 73 yards and a score.
Alvin Kamara scored a touchdown and led all rushers with 99 yards, 60 of those in the second half. Tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk contained Chicago's talented edge rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn most of the afternoon, while the entire New Orleans front controlled the line of scrimmage for the rushing attack.
Here were the most impressive performances from the tenth postseason victory in Saints franchise history.
DEONTE HARRIS, WIDE RECEIVER
Much was made of the return of Michael Thomas, and he was an important part of the game plan. However, it was Deonte Harris who made the biggest impact for his team's passing attack. Harris, who missed the last six games with a neck injury, led all receivers with 7 receptions for 83 yards while playing only 24 offensive snaps.
The All-Pro kick returner took advantage of extra attention from Chicago defenders on Thomas and Kamara to continually give his quarterback an open target, especially in the first half. Harris adds another dangerous weapon to a New Orleans offense that is getting most of their other playmakers back healthy.
The New Orleans defense had an outstanding team effort from the start against a limited Chicago offense to leave little doubt in the outcome of this contest. Chicago had only 149 yards of total offense, 7 1st downs, and were 0 of 9 on 3rd downs until a meaningless 99-Yd drive against loose coverage to end the game. The Saints held the Bears to just 48 yards on the ground and a paltry 2.5 per rush.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown dominated Chicago run blocking, repeatedly altering Bears RB David Montgomery or stuffing him at the line of scrimmage. Fellow tackles Sheldon Rankins (1 sack) and David Onyemata, along with ends Cam Jordan, Carl Granderson, and Marcus Davenport pressured Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky well enough to make him uncomfortable.
All-Pro LB Demario Davis had a quiet game by his standards, but collected five tackles and played his usual outstanding run defense along with staying with Chicago tight ends Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham in coverage. Linebacker Alex Anzalone had a standout performance, both as a run defender and sticking to Kmet in coverage.
The New Orleans secondary held Trubisky to just 10 of 19 and 101 yards passing until that final long drive. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore was terrific against Allen Robinson, the Bears' top receiver, allowing only one completion until late in the game. Janoris Jenkins was very active from his corner spot, coming up with several key pass breakups. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Williams, and Malcolm Jenkins were effective from their safety spots, and the entire unit left Trubisky little options to go with his passes.
Up next for New Orleans is another showdown against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints dominated Tampa Bay defensively twice this season. This unit played championship-caliber football on Sunday and could need that level of play again next weekend against a future Hall of Fame quarterback to cement a date in the conference championship game.