The final score does not do justice for this game. The Saints dominated throughout.
It was still a roller coast of a game, though, with plenty of “Ups” and “Downs” along the way, though. Here are a few that stood out:
The New Orleans Saints had no business winning this game on paper. They were without their Hall of Fame quarterback, one of the most electric running backs in the game, their top receiving tight end (coming off back-to-back weeks with a touchdown), and their number three wide receiver on offense. That’s not to mention that on defense, they were without a nickel corner, a quality defense end, and a starting linebacker. On top of that, they were playing on the road, outside, against the Chicago Bears, largely considered one of the top defenses in the NF. While the Bears might have struggled on the road, at home they had held the Green Bay Packers to 10 points and the Minnesota Vikings to only 6. On top of that, the Bears were coming off a bye week, so not only were they healthy, they had an extra week to prepare for this game against the Saints after getting embarrassed by the Oakland Raiders.
The Saints had no business winning this game. But win they did. And that is a testament to not just the depth of the roster, but is absolutely indicative of the quality of the coaching staff in New Orleans. Even without their full compliment of players on offense, Sean Payton was able to get his team ready to win the game. Compare that to the Atlanta Falcons, who have all the talent in the world, but it just seems Dan Quinn and the coaching staff can’t get that group of players to get up for the game on Sunday.
The entire defense gets the second “Up” for the game. Garbage time stats still show up in the box score, but they mean nothing as it relates to how dominant the Saints defense was against the Bears. The Saints defense effectively held the Bears offense to less than 200 total yards throughout the game until it didn’t matter. The Saints had a streak where they didn’t allow a single first down even for five straight Bears’ possessions. Utter domination.
Down: Special Teams
But Chris, how can you give the special teams a “down” when they firmly blocked a punt for a safety, tipped another punt, and had a punt returned for a touchdown had it not been for a phantom “holding” call from bad officiating? I get it, I get it.
Through the first three quarters of the game, the Bears scored only 10 points, with only three of those points coming on offense. The other seven points came on a kickoff return from Cordarrelle Patterson. Granted, there were multiple injuries on special teams immediately before that kickoff (JT Gray and Patrick Robinson, plus Taysom Hill’s role as a backup quarterback has limited his special team kickoff coverage play), but blowing the coverage on that kickoff was a huge momentum swing for the Bears. Wil Lutz uncharacteristically missed two field goals, and the Saints gave up an onside kick where Michael Thomas practically handed the ball to the Bears kicking unit, and almost gave up another onside kick if not for a helpful booth review.
Just like the Saints are fortunate the kickoff return didn’t prove more costly, they should also consider themselves lucky that early reports are that Eli Apple’s injury isn’t too serious - otherwise, that first onside kick could have proved to be an even bigger deal.
Up: Latavius Murray
I thought about including Michael Thomas as the final “Up” (and frankly, I considered giving a “Down” to the officials, but that horse is past dead), but that muffed onside kick boots him from the list. I will add, though, that I was absolutely shocked the Bears allowed Thomas to consistently get so open down the field. Knowing the Saints were without Brees and Kamara, I was certain the Bears defense was going to quadruple cover Thomas, but that wasn’t in the cards.
No, instead the final “Up” will go to Latavius Murray, who finished the game with 150 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. In fact, in a rushing attack led by Alvin Kamara, it might come as a surprise to hear that Murray’s showing against the Bears defense was actually the first time in 2019 that a Saints running back has rushed for over 100 yards. While Mark Ingram has played exceptionally well for the Baltimore Ravens, for the first time this season, his replacement in New Orleans showed why the Saints were comfortable letting Ingram walk.