Saints surprise, impress with dominant effort to drop Bears

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When discussions begin about football games, everyone talks about and compares offenses and defenses. Seldom do they discuss the third and very important aspect of the game.

The kicking game was a focal point Sunday at Soldier Field.

It was a crazy momentum game for the New Orleans Saints and its kicking game. New Orleans blocked a punt, resulting in a safety but it could have been a touchdown, losing five points. New Orleans allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. The Saints tipped another punt.

Wil Lutz actually missed a field goal on the road, costing the Saints three points. Deonte Harris had a punt return for a score nullified by a penalty, costing New Orleans another seven points. Lutz then missed another field goal, this time from 52 yards. Then, the Saints allowed the Bears to recover an onside kick. Then, they let it happen again, only to be negated by penalty.

By reading this, you would think New Orleans, as an underdog, had lost convincingly at Chicago.

Think again.

The Saints won convincingly despite playing without Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Tre’Quan Smith and Jared Cook.

Simply put, the Saints are a very good team.

Here are my Quick Takes from the 36-25 win:

**C.J. Gardner-Johnson got the start at the nickel corner in place of the suspended P.J. Williams

The Saints kicked off and immediately forced a 3-and-out. Pat O’Donnell punted and J.T. Gray broke through up the middle to block the punt. The ball rolled into the end zone and O’Donnell alertly batted out of the end zone for a safety to avoid a Saints touchdown as the Saints grabbed a 2-0 lead.

**It was the first punt blocked against O’Donnell this season and the first blocked punt by the Saints since Dec. 11, 2016 against Tampa Bay.

New Orleans got good field position at its own 41-yard line on the ensuing free kick but went 3-and-out, wasting the opportunity.

**Gray and Patrick Robinson both later went down injured in the first quarter.

**A holding call on Erik McCoy and a delay of game penalty killed the second possession for the Saints.

**Then, it happened again. Vonn Bell drilled Anthony Miller, who fumbled. Bell scooped it up and scored. The officials ruled Miller down by contact. Sean Payton challenged the call and won the challenge but because the whistle blew, the play was dead upon the spot of the recovery at the Chicago 24-yard line. How many times is this going to happen to the Saints?

**Undaunted, the Saints drove 24 yards in five plays with Teddy Bridgewater hitting Josh Hill on a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Saints a 9-0 lead with 2:09 to play in the first quarter.

**It did not last very long. On the ensuing kickoff, Cordarrelle Patterson returned it 102 yards for a touchdown. The coverage was simply awful. The only player to touch Patterson was Marcus Williams, who missed him, and it was 9-7.

**Chicago then took the lead, driving 37 yards in 11 plays with Eddy Pineiro connecting on a 46-yard field goal to give the Bears a 10-9 lead with 11:33 to play in the first half. Mitchell Trubisky completed passes of 17 and 14 yards to Allen Robinson II on the drive.

**New Orleans recaptured the lead with a 52-yard drive in 12 plays with Lutz connecting on a 39-yard field goal to make it 12-10 with 6:31 to play in the first half.

**New Orleans had a chance to extend the lead late in the half but Lutz missed a 42-yard field goal. It broke a streak of 35 consecutive field goals made by Lutz on the road, an incredibly impressive streak.

**Prior to the miss, Ted Ginn Jr. dropped a touchdown pass from Bridgewater. Yes, the ball was slightly late and yes, a defender was on him swiping the arm but that is a ball that you must catch. It cost the Saints seven points.

**Then, Deonte Harris returned a punt for a touchdown but a critical holding penalty on Zach Line, at the line-of-scrimmage, negated the score. It was brutal. You could understand the call but watching it, Line was simply hand-fighting with his man. You hardly ever see a call like that but then again, this is the Saints.

**The Saints finished the first half with 170 yards to just 81 for Chicago.

**New Orleans took the second half kickoff and drove 75 yards in five plays, taking three minutes off the clock. Latavius Murray scored on a 3-yard run to make it 19-10 with 12 minutes to play in the quarter. Murray had a 17-yard run before Bridgewater connected with Ginn on a 45-yard pass to the 3-yard line to set up the score.

**Then, Marcus Davenport forced a fumble by Montgomery which A.J. Klein recovered at the Chicago 29 yard-line but the Saints failed to take advantage. Bridgewater was then sacked which forced a 52-yard field goal attempt by Lutz but surprisingly, he was short on it.

**New Orleans got a stop and then the offense got it done, driving 76 yards in 11 plays with Bridgewater hitting Taysom Hill on a 4-yard touchdown pass to make it 26-10 with 2:55 to play in the third quarter. Hill earlier ran 23 yards on an option pitch from Line on a brilliant play call. The play-calling on the entire drive was brilliant.

**The Saints destroyed the Bears in the third quarter, amassing 169 yards and 14 points while missing a field goal while Chicago had four yards, no first downs and, of course, no points.

**It looked like the Saints had put the ball in the end zone again when Murray ran five yards for an apparent score but it was nullified by a holding call against Josh Hill and it cost New Orleans three points. Lutz came on and kicked a 30-yard field goal to make it 29-10 with 12:45 to play in the game.

**The carnage continued as New Orleans drove 55 yards in seven plays on its next drive, scoring on a 3-yard run by Murray to make it 36-10 with 4:33 to play in the game.

**The Bears finally got a scoring drive, going 75 yards in 10 plays with Trubisky hitting Robinson on a 7-yard touchdown pass and the two-point conversion was good to make it 36-18 with 2:31 to play.

**Then, the Bears recovered an onside kick when Michael Thomas tried to go recover the kick despite the fact that it did not go 10 yards and he failed to cover it with Patterson recovered at the Chicago 43-yard line.

**Unfortunately, Eli Apple went down with 48 seconds left when Trubisky hit Javon Wims on a touchdown pass to account for the final score of 36-25. It appeared to be a knee injury, though he was able to walk off.

Then, Dwayne Washington inexplicably ignored the ball on the ensuing onside kick and the ball hit his foot and leg and Chicago recovered. Fortunately, the player recovering the fumble had stepped out of bounds and the Saints finally got the ball to kneel it out.

It was a sour ending to a good evening.

The Saints had already lost Robinson earlier in the game to injury and P.J. Williams is out for another game suspended.

You cannot make as many mistakes in the kicking game as New Orleans did and expect to win down the road.

Fortunately, the Saints were so much better than Chicago on this day that they survived the mistakes.

The New Orleans defense let up late and Chicago got two scores but the Saints defense has been undeniably very good. The offense is doing its job.

Murray was simply superb, rushing 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He has clearly quieted the “miss Mark Ingram” howls in the past two games.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson played outstanding in place of Williams.

Then, there is Bridgewater, who has done nothing but win, going 5-0.

Various reports have Drew Brees possibly coming back next week against Arizona. While Brees is a tremendous competitor and future Hall of Fame quarterback, there is certainly no sense of urgency for him to return just yet. If he does, great. If he does not, no worries.

Bridgewater has seen to that with consistently solid performances. He completed 23-of-38 for 281 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. He ran for a pair of first downs. He is calm, collected and confident.

Thomas, despite the onside kick snafu, was superb again with nine catches for 131 yards.

New Orleans is an outstanding team. The concern is health, at this point. This team has mitigated a lot of injuries. How many more can they handle?

Sean Payton remains one of the top-shelf coaches in the NFL. That is nothing new. Despite the amazing job and numbers his teams have put up, has he ever done a better job that he has done in 2019?

Arizona comes calling next week and the Cardinals have won three straight games. It will not be easy. It will be Saints Hall of Fame and Saints Alumni weekend with Marques Colston and Reggie Bush returning to claim their places in the Saints Hall of Fame while up to 60 former players are here to celebrate.

With the way the Saints are playing, it could be another huge celebration.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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