Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes to Pierre Thomas, and Jimmy Graham caught 10 passes for 135 yards as the New Orleans Saints knocked off the Chicago Bears by a 26-18 margin at Soldier Field Sunday.
Jay Cutler threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns in the game, and Alshon Jeffery had nine catches for 197 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort.
The game started out with the Bears having a rough time on the offensive side of the ball. They only converted one first down in the first quarter, and Cutler ended up fumbling the ball deep in Bears’ territory after a well-executed blitz by the Saints’ defense, but the Bears’ defense stood tall and held the Saints to another field goal that gave New Orleans a 6-0 lead.
The Saints got off to a rousing start in the second quarter, when Brees found Thomas on a screen pass at the two-yard line that Thomas took to the end zone to give them a 13-0 lead.
That play was set up by several deep throws to Graham, with one coming over the middle of the field over the top of the linebackers and then a one-on-one battle with Major Wright that Graham ended up winning along the sideline.
The Bears’ offense finally responded well after that play, with Cutler throwing a great ball to Jeffery over the middle of the field and then following that up with a perfectly designed pass to the corner of the end zone to cut the Saints lead to 13-7. On the play, Jeffrey and Earl Bennett ran a crossing route at the line and separated the defenders, and Cutler did a great job of allowing the play to develop before finding a wide open Jeffrey for the score.
The Saints weren’t done in the half though, executing a great screen pass to Thomas to score again and give themselves a 20-7 lead going into the half. On the play, the Bears blitzed the strong side of the Saints’ line, but when New Orleans sniffed the play out, Brees called for the screen pass to the weak side, and Thomas made it virtually untouched for the score.
At the beginning of the second half, the Saints drove down the field and ate a ton of clock, but they were held to a field goal when the drive stalled out late. Unfortunately for the Bears, they saw both CB Tim Jennings and DT Nate Collins go off the field with apparent leg injuries on the drive, and their prospects for winning the game didn’t exactly look good after the series.
Even still, the Bears drove back down the field, with Cutler making a great throw again to Jeffrey as he stepped up in the pocket to avoid a Saints’ blitz. Unfortunately for the Bears, the drive stalled out at the five-yard line, as Cutler was forced to throw the ball away on three straight plays, and Robbie Gould had to come in and kick the field goal to bring the Bears within a 23-10 margin.
After forcing the Saints into a punt, the Bears set up shop at their own 1-yard line down 13 points. The Bears converted on a couple of third downs on the ensuing drive, including a great play underneath to Martellus Bennett for a first down, but they were stopped in Saints territory at the 25 yard line on third down. After having to call a timeout with their offense on the field to buy some time, the Bears went to Earl Bennett at the first down marker, but the Bears receiver dropped the ball and turned it over on downs to the Saints.
The Saints couldn't do much with the ensuing drive, however, with Graham getting stopped just short of a first down at midfield with 6:21 left in the contest. On fourth down however, Lance Briggs jumped offsides on a hard snap count by Brees, giving the Saints the first down and completely deflating his teammates. The mistake allowed the Saints to milk the clock down, picking up a couple first downs in the process. Garrett Hartley picked up a late field goal in the closing minutes to put things even further out of reach.
The Bears weren't done yet, however. Cutler completed yet another deep ball to Jeffery that set the Bears up with a first and goal, and Cutler found Brandon Marshall in the end zone for the score. Matt Forte converted the two point conversion, but it wasn't enough as the Bears failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, and the Saints ran the rest of the clock down to seal the game.