Drew Brees will face Tom Brady for a third time this season after guiding the New Orleans Saints to a 21-9 win over the Chicago Bears in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs on Sunday. Brees threw touchdown passes to Michael Thomas and Latavius Murray, while Alvin Kamara scored on the ground. Kamara rushed for 99 yards, 51 more than the Bears managed.
Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in New Orleans for the Divisional Round next Sunday, aiming to avenge their losses from the regular season. It won’t be easy against a Saints offense clicking into gear.
Both teams traded punts early, but the Bears paid a heavy price after being forced to kick from deep. The Saints started at their own 45 and found the end zone eight plays later.
Brees finished the drive by connecting with Thomas from 11 yards. It was Thomas’s first touchdown in 385 days thanks to injuries and suspensions.
The Bears should have answered immediately, but Javon Wims inexplicably dropped a sure touchdown in the end zone. Mitchell Trubisky put the ball where it needed to be after an elaborate flea-flicker routine.
Chicago’s defense was harassing Brees in the pocket, and the unit almost forced a turnover early in the second quarter. Duke Shelley made an apparent, diving interception after Tashaun Gipson jarred the ball off the hands of tight end Jared Cook. Replay showed the tip of the ball touching the ground. New Orleans kept possession but failed to cash in when Will Lutz missed a 50-yard field goal.
The Bears eventually got their turnover when Gipson hit the arm of Taysom Hill, forcing his pass into the arms of nose tackle John Jenkins. Chicago only turned the theft into a 36-yard Cairo Santos field goal after a borderline unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the red zone. An officiating crew that spent more time on the field than most of the players decided tight end Cole Kmet was the culprit.
The Saints’ defense was the next to suffer a suspect call. Malcolm Jenkins recovered a fumble and went to the house after P.J. Williams knocked the ball loose from running back David Montgomery. Officials ruled Montgomery hadn’t done enough to secure the catch before the ball came free. Saints head coach Sean Payton challenged, but the refs upheld a true judgment call if ever there was one.
Trubisky hit Allen Robinson for 21 yards to make a fast start to the third quarter. Unfortunately, the next hit landed by a Chicago receiver swung momentum back to the Saints, when Anthony Miller was ejected for lashing out at C.J. Gardner-Johnson. A similar incident occurred when the two teams met in Week 8. Wims served a suspension after striking the trash-talking defensive back on that occasion.
Brees sensed the moment was ripe to go for the kill and dropped a dime to Thomas for 38 yards. Yet the crucial play of the drive was another penalty, blitzing safety Eddie Jackson flagged offside on 4th down in the red zone. The decision incensed Bears’ defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, but the flag kept the chains moving.
Brees compounded Pagano’s misery by showing off some nifty moves under pressure before flipping the ball to Latavius Murray. The six-yard score capped a 12-play march covering 85 yards. Montgomery was no longer a factor on the ground with Bears trailing by 11, so Brees soon got the ball back. He led a 15-play, 64-yard drive that lasted 8:51 and ended with Kamara diving over from three yards.
The margin of victory might’ve been greater, but Brees was denied a touchdown off a QB sneak late in the fourth. Former Saint Jimmy Graham produced a one-handed masterpiece as time expired to provide the Bears scant consolation.
Brees will feel confident about meeting Brady for the third time. New Orleans won both regular-season games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Things are different in Chicago, where Trubisky and head coach Matt Nagy may have finally worn out their welcome.