Saints Power Past Bears to Set Up Third Date with Tom Brady and the Bucs

The Saints had some offensive struggles after starting hot, but their defense came to play and gave them time to figure it out and solve for the Bears to advance in the playoffs.
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NEW ORLEANS -- The rematch of the rematch is set for next weekend after the Saints powered past the Bears on Sunday. New Orleans will host Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round after knocking off Chicago 21-9. The date is yet to be determined.

Game Recap

The Saints started with the football after Chicago won the opening coin toss, as the Bears elected to defer to the second half. New Orleans came out strong on offense, as Drew Brees found Michael Thomas on the very first play and then a couple plays later for a big third down conversion. The offense would push the ball to the Bears' 38-yard line, but couldn't connect on a 3rd-and-4 play to put Thomas Morstead in the game to punt and pin the Bears back at their own 8-yard line. 

Offensively, Chicago couldn't muster anything and went three-and-out. On this drive, New Orleans would make them pay and take advantage of good field position, piloting a 8-play, 55-yard drive that was capped off by Michael Thomas' first touchdown of the season, an 11-yard hookup from Brees. On the series, the Saints got a big 3rd-and-8 conversion from Brees to Deonte Harris for a gain of 17 to help keep the drive alive.

The Bears looked to counter, and had a nice start to their second series, getting the ball into Saints territory after a big hookup from Mitch Trubisky to Javon Wims for a gain of 28 that was originally called incomplete and had to be challenged by Matt Nagy. Wims dropped a sure touchdown on the very next play, which involved some trickery from the Bears. Eventually, New Orleans would hold strong and force the Bears off the field on downs after stopping Trubisky on 4th-and-4 to get the ball back with 2:05 left in the opening quarter.

New Orleans looked to go to work after capturing some momentum, and got another big conversion from Brees to Harris on a 3rd-and-9 play, once again for 17 yards. As we started the second quarter, the Saints faced a 2nd-and-11 and Brees tried Jared Cook on what ended up getting tipped in the air to fall into the hands of Duke Shelley for a pick. Upon further review, the ball hit the ground and was not an interception, as the tip of the ball hit the field. The Saints would trot in Wil Lutz to attempt a 50-yard field goal, but it was no good and the Bears took over.

Chicago would give the ball right back to New Orleans after another three-and-out, and the Saints would be all too eager to give the ball right back to them, this time through a real interception. Taysom Hill set up for a deep shot, and it looked like he had both Adam Trautman and Deonte Harris for big plays, but instead he got his arm hit and the ball was in the air long enough for John Jenkins to make the pick. It was officially ruled a fumble. Chicago would struggle get much going, and a big unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Cole Kmet made it a little more difficult, but Cairos Santos eventually knocked in their first points of the game after converting the 36-yard field goal.

The Saints were once again stymied on their next possession, losing their offensive momentum they started the game with, and punted the ball back to the Bears. Chicago would also fail to do anything with the football, and there was a moment there that looked like the Saints were going to get a defensive touchdown. However, it was ruled incomplete on the field and challenged by Sean Payton and stood as called. 

New Orleans looked to shed off some of their struggles on offense, getting another key third down conversion from Brees to Harris again. But it quickly diminished and saw the Saints having to punt once again. They just couldn't find their mojo, but the defense was playing well and helping mask some of their inefficiencies. Going to halftime, the score remained 7-3.

Opening the third quarter, the Bears were able to move down the field some, going 31 yards in 7 plays, but would stall out. Prior to the punt, some interesting stuff ensued, as C.J. Gardner-Johnson got another Bears receiver kicked out of the game. This time, it was Anthony Miller. Both were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but Miller struck the helmet of Gardner-Johnson. Sheldon Rankins also made a big play by sacking Trubisky for an 8-yard loss on the drive.

The next offensive possession resulted in a Saints touchdown to break the drought, as New Orleans went 85 yards in 12 plays to get up 14-3 with 4:08 left in the third. Latavius Murray had a touchdown reminiscent of the one he scored against the Vikings, hanging in there with Brees and being the last read to get in from 6 yards out. Big plays on the drive involved Jared Cook twice and a 38-yard hookup to Michael Thomas. The Saints also benefitted from a Bears penalty when lining up for it on 4th-and-3. 

Chicago would go three-and-out again, as the Saints kept playing strong defensively. They'd respond again on offense, going 64 yards in 15 plays that took nearly 9 minutes. On the drive, Brees hit Jared Cook for his 460th playoff completion, which tied the great Joe Montana, good for 4th in the NFL. Alvin Kamara finished the drive with a 3-yard score on the ground. Lil'Jordan Humphrey made an excellent play on a 3rd-and-11, catching the ball out in the flats near the Bears sideline and making moves to pick up an important Saints first down.

The Saints defense, who again really responded in a big way all day with some offensive struggles, forced the Bears off the field after not allowing a ninth straight 3rd Down attempt. New Orleans answered by putting together another good drive in the final stages of the game, once again controlling the clock and threatening. It looked like they were going to go up 28-3 after Brees snuck in on a 4th-and-Goal play from the 1-yard line, but further review determined he was short of the line to gain.

The Bears would take over and convert their first 3rd Down of the game and go over the 150-yard mark offensively, but the clock would run out and New Orleans would pass their opening postseason test. They'd get a garbage time touchdown from Jimmy Graham as time expired.