The New Orleans Saints won their fifth straight game on Sunday, by a 20-12 score over the visiting Chicago Bears. It is the Saints longest winning streak since starting 5-0 in the 2013 season, but did not come without moments of trepidation. New Orleans won a game for the first time since 2009 without the aid of a single touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees.
Despite controlling the Chicago offense for majority of the game, untimely big plays kept the Bears in the game. Two 4th quarter fumbles by running back Mark Ingram, who otherwise had a productive day, helped put the Bears in a position to tie the score late in the game. Instead, the Saints defense gave their fans an early Halloween present by snuffing out Chicago's final opportunities. First, on a four-down stop to set up a New Orleans field goal, and again with an interception from Marshon Lattimore to silence the Bear's final drive.
Canal Street Chronicles hands out our Halloween treats in the form of two game balls on each side of the ball, and one last baseball reference as the World Series nears an end.
Treat #1 — Drew Brees
Brees was an efficient 23-28 for 299 yards. The 38-year-old moved through the pocket well against a good Chicago pass rush, able to buy extra time to progress through his secondary reads and keep the Saints offense on the field. A five yard completion to Michael Thomas on their first drive of the 3rd quarter was the 6,000th of Brees' illustrious career, just the third player in history to accomplish such a feat, and the fastest to do so.
Congratulations to a great player, and a great person!
Treat #2 — Ryan Ramczyk
The second of the Saints two first round draft picks this spring has not garnered quite the attention that Marshon Lattimore has attracted, though the spectacular cornerback has certainly earned his accolades. Ramczyk more than held his own at left tackle, as the team awaited the return of Terron Armstead, then has consistently graded highly at right tackle since replacing the injured Zach Strief.
His performance against the Bears was no different, rating as the 14th best offensive lineman in the league on Sunday according to PFF (Pro Football Focus) with a grade of 78.1. Ramczyk helped keep the dangerous Chicago pass rushers at bay, and continues to show superior athleticism at the second level of the defense to open holes down the field for Saints running backs.
Treat #3 — David Onyemata
Onyemata received a 85.5 grade from Pro Football Focus for his performance on Sunday afternoon, ranking in the top ten among defensive linemen. He and fellow defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins were a handful for the Bears offensive line all afternoon, pushing the pass pocket back into Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and forcing him to move off his spot or hurry his pass attempt. Onyemata finished the game with five tackles, and was a big part of a standout defensive effort that included Alex Okafor, Craig Robertson and A.J. Klein that held a good Chicago running game in check.
Outside of a 50-yard burst from running back Jordan Howard and a 46-yard broken field QB scramble from Trubisky, the Bears running attack was limited to 61 yards and less than 2.2 yards per carry. Onyemata and Rankins are both doing a terrific job at tying up inside blockers, eliminating extra running lanes, and allowing other Saints defenders to make plays in pursuit.
Treat #4 — Kenny Vaccaro
Vaccaro led Saints defenders with 9 tackles on the afternoon, including a half sack (shared with Cam Jordan) on a 3rd down blitz to end a Chicago drive in the second quarter. Vaccaro continues to be a big factor near the line of scrimmage, taking on blockers and making a number of athletic plays in backside pursuit. Vaccaro broke up a key 4th and 1 with just 1:57 remaining in the game, when he trailed Chicago wideout Kendall Wright across the formation out of the slot and showed great closing speed to knock down Trubisky's pass attempt.
One of the elder statesman of a continuously improving New Orleans secondary that includes rookies Lattimore and Marcus Williams, along with 2nd year Ken Crawley and Vonn Bell, Vaccaro helped key a pass defense that allowed just 164 yards through the air and less than 44% completion percentage against the Bears.
Game Winning Home Run Catch — Wil Lutz
Lutz continues to scare the hell out of Saints fans, but continues to convert kicks in clutch situations. He nailed two long field goals in the 4th quarter, first a 45 yarder, then a 49 yard with just over 2 minutes remaining to extend the New Orleans lead to 8 points. But each of Lutz's field goals squeezed just inside of the goalpost uprights on either side, still making him 15/18 on his field goal attempts so far this season, including 9/12 from beyond 40 yards.
Arguably, the biggest play Lutz made came on a defensive stop, and a penalty. Chicago's Tarik Cohen took Lutz's kickoff following the 49-yd field goal with 1:35 left in the game and broke into the open field down the left side, possibly headed for a touchdown that would leave the Bears just a two point conversion away from tying the game. Standing in Cohen's way was Lutz, and the 2nd year kicker managed to take down Chicago's rookie speedster. He received a personal foul on the play for a horse-collar tackle, adding 15 yards to the return but saving a touchdown, where just moments later Lattimore came up with the game clinching interception.
Happy Halloween Everyone!
Who was your top performer in the Saints win over the Bears?
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