The New Orleans Saints won their fifth game in a row, moving their record to 6-1 with a 36-25 pounding on the road of the Chicago Bears. The Saints were in firm control of the game from the opening moments, and delivered dominating performances on both sides of the ball. They administered this beating not only without Drew Brees once again, but also without injured offensive stars Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook. New Orleans got their day started by forcing the Bears into a three and out on the opening series, a theme for the game. Safety J.T. Gray then blocked the ensuing punt that rolled out of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Saints lead. Although it was a somewhat rough day for the special teams after that moment, New Orleans would thoroughly throttle the Bears on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Wide receiver Michael Thomas had another spectacular game, catching 9 passes for 131 yards despite a Bears defense determined to contain him. Here are some of the other top performers from this convincing Saints win.
Murray was expected to get the bulk of the touches with Kamara sidelined, and he delivered in a big way. The sixth year back had the first 100-yd. rushing performance for the Saints in 2019, finishing with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, and added 31 more on 5 receptions. Murray was at his best in the second half, when he picked up 89 of those yards and both scores while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Murray slashed through Chicago's 5th ranked run defense to help his team to a fifteen minute advantage in time of possession. The running threat he provided opened up play action passes for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
Murray's effectiveness on the ground and Bridgewater's productive game was also due in large part to another impressive performance from the entire offensive line. Tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead made another of the league's best pass rushers completely disappear, this time rendering All-Pro Khalil Mack irrelevant. Rookie center Erik McCoy continues to impress. He, along with guards Andrus Peat and Larry Warford opened up inside cutback lanes for Murray, especially in the second half. Bridgewater was sacked just once, on a broken play, and wasn't often pressured. Chicago's formidable front seven was simply dominated and worn down by the best offensive line in the NFL.
Gardner-Johnson, a rookie 4th round pick, played 59 defensive snaps on Sunday because of a two game suspension to nickel back P.J. Williams. The rookie played an aggressive and physical game against both the pass and the run. Just as he'd done so in recent weeks, Gardner-Johnson made a few solid tackles to stop a Chicago ball carrier just shy of a first down to force a change of possession. He finished with 6 tackles (two for loss), 2 quarterback pressures, 2 passes defensed, and narrowly missed intercepting two passes. Gardner-Johnson often took on Bears running back Tarik Cohen when they'd line up their versatile weapon in the slot. Cohen would catch 9 passes, but only totaled 19 yards as he was blanketed and pounded by the Saints rookie. Gardner-Johnson was part of another outstanding effort by the entire New Orleans secondary that frustrated and shut down Chicago receivers, completely stifling their passing attack.
The rookie defensive back certainly wasn't the only impressive performance the Saints got on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive end Cameron Jordan sacked Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky twice, and keyed a team defensive line effort that had Chicago's offensive line in chaos all afternoon. Safety Vonn Bell led the team with 7 tackles, and forced a key first quarter fumble that he also recovered. Linebacker Demario Davis was once again all over the field and in on several big stops. End Marcus Davenport forced a 3rd quarter fumble recovered by A.J. Klein and pressured Trubisky a number of plays. The Saints defense would hold Chicago to a measly 4 third quarter yards as New Orleans broke open what was a close game at halftime. They held the Bears to only 120 total yards until the final two meaningless drives once the game's outcome had been decided. New Orleans stuffed the Bears running attack, holding them to just 17 yards and no first downs on the ground. The Saints benefited from somewhat surprising offensive production in the absence of Brees, Kamara, and Cook, but the New Orleans defense once again played well enough to win this game all by themselves.
Who had the biggest performance in the Saints pounding of the Bears?
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The offensive line