Sometimes, the play is a momentum-stopper.
Sometimes, it's a momentum-turner.
Sunday, it was a tone-setter.
It didn't take long Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago for the New Orleans Saints (6-1) to establish exactly who and what they intended to be against the Bears. In truth, it took less than 90 seconds for the Saints to set the standard by which they existed during a 36-25 victory that was their fifth straight win, and kept them atop the NFC South Division standings.
The Saints won the toss and deferred, choosing instead to put the defense on the field first against the Bears' offense. That strategy immediately proved wise; Chicago ran once for a yard, completed a 6-yard pass and then threw incomplete on third down as New Orleans forced a punt.
That's when the tone-setter happened.
On fourth-and-3 from the Chicago 27-yard line, with 83 seconds of the game having elapsed, the Bears lined up in punt formation with Pat O'Donnell set to boot the ball away to Saints returner Deonte Harris. But as O'Donnell took the snap and lined up his steps in preparation for his punt, Saints safety – and special team specialist – J.T. Gray poured through the offensive line and smothered the ball off O'Donnell's foot.
Gray's block bounced toward Chicago's goal line and though he had the first, and perhaps best, chance to cover it, it squirted away long enough for O'Donnell to bat it out of the end zone.
The result? A safety, and a 2-0 lead for the Saints.
Not a monumental advantage – that would come later, as New Orleans widened its lead to 36-10 with 4:33 left in the game – but a sign that the Saints comfortably would assume the role of aggressor against the Bears on Sunday, and would continue to take the fight to the Bears.