Saints 36, Bears 25
Saints vs Bears: Good, bad and ugly
The Saints went into Soldier Field and took on the Bears minus several key players. Despite being shorthanded, they easily handled the Bears 36-25. Here are my observations:
-Michael Thomas did Michael Thomas things (nine catches for 131 yards). But it was Latavius Murray filling in for Alvin Kamara who did the heavy lifting. He ran for 113 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He added five catches for another 31 yards. Murray looked like the 2015 Pro Bowl version of himself.
-The defense was awesome! The Bears went two full quarters between getting a 1st down (2nd to 4th). Not to mention a safety, two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt, two sacks, allowed 17 yards rushing and gave up only 10 points. I know Mitchell Trubisky just returned from a shoulder injury and the Bears offense hasn't gotten more than 300 yards of offense in any game this year, but this was impressive.
-Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk got some praise from the announcers for his play. Not only did he do a good job on Khalil Mack, but they wondered why he hasn't been to a Pro Bowl. Ramczyk has consistently handled himself well against some of the best pass rushers in the league and should see his first Pro Bowl this year.
-Right after recovering a fumble and going up 9-0, the special teams gave up a 102-yard kickoff return. Momentum swings like this can deflate one team and ignite another. Far too often the Saints shoot themselves in the foot like this. When they're playing well, they don't give up easy scores after they've scored.
-Kicker Will Lutz had made 35 straight field goals on the road with his first attempt against the Bears. It set a new NFL record. Unfortunately, he missed his next two. One went wide right, the other fell short. It didn't cost the Saints the game, but here's to hoping Lutz gets his mojo back.
-Too many cheap yards given up when the game was already decided. I know when you're up by three or four touchdowns, attention seems to fade. They gave up a final score when Allen Robinson juked rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson out his shoes and caught a skinny post for a touchdown. Icing on the cupcake was the Bears' tight end Adam Shaheen caught the two-point conversion over Eli Apple.
-J.T. Gray and Patrick Robinson both left the game in the first quarter. With P.J. Williams serving a two-game suspension, the defense needs defensive backs to stay healthy. The defense has been playing very well over the last month or so. The next couple games could test that. More icing on the cupcake: Apple went down with what looked to be a pretty bad leg injury with under a minute left.
-34 seconds before halftime, the Saints force a punt. Deonte Harris returned it 67 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty on Zach Line. I thought the league was going to go easy on ticky tack holding calls? Obviously not as this one took points off the board.
-With 4:33 left in the game and it's clearly over with the Saints up 36-10, Gardner-Johnson stopped Tarik Cohen for a six yard loss after catching a pass. He and Apple proceeded to make height-mocking gestures to Cohen. They weren't flagged, but it was pretty dumb. Two guys who haven't done a damn thing in this league making fun of a guy who made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team last season is beyond dumb and really pissed me off!
No Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook? And this team won on the road again? Time to stop doubting those who are non-believers. This is arguably the best team in football right now. Most of the credit goes to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and the defense. They've collectively rallied and turned themselves into the best defensive unit over the last five plus games. Head coach Sean Payton has called plays masterfully. They made Teddy Bridgewater the highest paid backup in the league for a reason. Teddy Two-Gloves is now 5-0 as a starter this year. Brees is trying to come back next week against the Cardinals. I say let him chill until they play the Falcons after the bye week...unless he's healthy. This team will be a real problem once they're all fully healthy down the stretch. The rest of the league is on notice.