A New Orleans Saints team without Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, among a few others, travelled to Chicago and beat the home team Bears down. The Saints are now 5-0 since Drew Brees got injured and 6-1 on the season. In a game where the box score makes it look like it was a contest, in reality, it wasn’t after half time. In the 3rd quarter the Saints took complete control and held the Bears to less than 10 offensive yards until garbage time.
It was the best quarter of Saints football I’ve seen this season and they made the home crowd boo and head for the exits as early as the start of the 4th quarter. A sloppy start on offense by the black and gold was propped up by an early special teams score and some defensive brilliance. The end of the game was the Bears scoring against a defense in cruise control, unfortunately Eli Apple appeared to be injured deep into garbage time, hopefully it’s nothing too serious. Let’s review, as usual, all 3 sides of the ball with key players investigated in more detail.
Ah a Teddy Bridgewater led offense scoring four Touchdowns is a lovely thing and it could have been more with some drops in between. The whole Saints team (3 units) could have put up a 50 burger on Chicago had things gone their way at times. I’m not saying it was perfect but it was better, certainly after the half.
Teddy is a slow starter and he showed it once again with the first two offensive possessions ending in only 1 first down and 2 punts. However, following a defensive turnover he found his groove ending up with 23/38 for 281 and 2 Touchdowns. Bridgewater also used his feet to complete a couple of 1st down runs. With the lack of 2 major weapons at his disposal he again used the “game management” style very well with 37:26 time of possession. Sure, there were a few under thrown balls but he also was clever and accurate when needed. One deep shot to Ted Ginn was a beautiful throw but not as perfect as a back-shoulder pass over two defenders to Michael Thomas for the pass of the match. With Brees potentially coming back next week, Teddy has won some people over and might even get a starting job somewhere next year, if not with the Saints.
Let’s talk Latavius, Murray that is. With star running back Alvin Kamara side-lined with an ankle/knee issue, it was up to Murray to step up and he did. Not in the glamourous, all balance and feet of Kamara but with old fashioned hard running. Pounding the ground against a tiring Chicago defense Murray clocked 119 rushing yards, 2 TDs and 31 aerial yards as he wore the Bears down. Establishing the run was a crucial part of this game (see Chicago and their offense). Once he gets going, he gets gone. A very impressive display from Murray and he is improving every week.
Murray couldn’t have done this without the ever-impressive Offensive Line. The Bears are supposed to have a mean defense, there was little to no evidence of this on Sunday. Ryan Ramczyk shut down Khalil Mack and the line only gave up one sack. The Bears did manage to bat some passes away but holes were created for Murray, Teddy was given time and they were quality. I highlighted Ramczyk as this season he has dealt with Mack, Barrett and Watt to such a high standard, he HAS to be the best right tackle in the league right now.
I’ve not even mentioned Michael Thomas. In the first half he was Bridgewater’s biggest outlet, before the run game was fully established. Thomas finished with 131 receiving yards on 9 catches. Even when he doesn’t score, he contributes with important plays, first downs and that beautiful move I mentioned earlier. Mike Cannot be Guarded.
Ted Ginn is a frustrating player. 2 catches for 48 yards. One he was wideee open for 45 of those and he also dropped a TD pass that was a tinyyy bit underthrown. It’s no surprise the Saints are looking for help at WR. I did mention in my preview we would take a deep shot to Ginn and so it proved. When Brees is back this is likely to continue.
Hill and Hill, Josh and Taysom that is, had nice days. The former caught a 7-yard Touchdown plus a nice catch and run with CGM blocking for 27 yards. Taysom is just awesome. You know Sean is feeling good when he calls a T.Hill run off a pitch from a fullback. Taysom also caught a TD pass from Teddy with his powerful, head down running style into the endzone, love this guy.
If we stop the game at where it was realistically over, the Saints defense didn’t give up a Touchdown again. However, they took their foot off the gas and did give up 15 points in 4 and a half minutes. Garbage time indeed. This skews the stats somewhat. But they forced 2 fumbles, got a turnover on downs and should have had some interceptions.
Starting with Mr. Fumble himself, Vonn Bell. Bell has 4 fumble recoveries with his one this week. He forced it and recovered it, then did actually get touched so it wasn’t a score but it set the offense in great field position from which they got their first touchdown on the night. Bell also had 8 total tackles and a pass defence. He is playing so physically and so cleverly and I am all here for it.
A rookie who seemed to be everywhere on the field was CJGJ – Chauncey Gardner Johnson. He had 6 solo tackles and two passes defensed. He could have had a pick which was knocked away by Patterson and he played on special teams too. Filling in for PJ Williams, he won’t get his place back with CJGJ playing this well. Adding to his stats he had two tackles for loss and a QB hit. One TFL was on Tarik Cohen to essentially end the half. With games on this level he has a big future ahead of him. Well played rook!
Cam Jordan had another two-sack day. The Saints don’t normally lose when this happens and so it proved once again in this one. Could have been more, as he was creating a lot of pressure and getting in Trubisky’s face but he leads from the front and produced again, LEVELS.
The Run Defense as a unit were outstanding. The Bears gave up with even attempting the run game. 17 yards on 7 carries says it all. Plus the fumbles, the 2nd of which was recovered by AJ Klein being forced by Marcus Williams. Before Sunday, the Bears hadn’t lost a fumble, now they have 2 to their name both courtesy of the New Orleans Saints Defense.
Let’s start with the bad points. The Saints special teams gave up a 102-yard kick-off return Touchdown after having just taken a 9-0 lead, not ideal. Missing tackles, less than ideal but still, good play by Patterson, he has that in his locker. Also, Wil Lutz missed 2 FG’s. The turf wasn’t great and he looked a little banged up but he still managed all 4 of his XPs and another couple of FGs to boot.
Now to the good points. Blocked punts. 2 of them and one was ever so nearly recovered for a TD but the punter hooked the ball out of the back of the Endzone for a safety, smart on his part. 2 points to the Saints following JT Gray’s block which after hitting the slippery ground just got away from him before he could fully recover. The second was a Zach Line touch when negated a running into the kicker penalty and stalled the Chicago drive. Excellent work by this unit and gave the Saints momentum early on.
Deonte Harris is one of those players who fills you with excitement but also a large element of fear. Catch, run and move, back on himself, left and right and breaks through for a gain. He was very unlucky not to have his 2nd punt return TD of the year, called back by a “hold”. If that’s called for holding, then every play on the NFL should be. No thanks. He actually managed 100 return yards on punt and kick off returns combined and can really ignite this unit but needs to be careful. He showed some inexperience with leaving a kick but at least had the peace of mind to pick it up and get it away from the Saints own Endzone.
A very good performance. Probably the most accomplished of the season, especially in the circumstances. With star players coming back from injuries in the near future and some divisional games to come, the Saints can extend their lead and look into the stretch with a good record. Hopefully Eli Apple isn’t injured badly as he played well once again. Brees, Kamara etc. can help ignite this offense even more and give the Black and Gold that 3 headed monster they deserve to be.
If Sean Payton isn’t coach of the year, especially after losing his Hall of Fame QB, something is wrong.
Until next time……