Chicago - The New Orleans Saints find a way to win.
Do it once, maybe it's attributable to good fortune. Do it twice, maybe write it off as a couple of lightning strikes. But for the fourth consecutive game, the Saints (5-2) have found themselves in a somewhat precarious position in a game, cobbled together some timely offensive drives and defensive stops and special teams plays, and walked away victoriously. And for the second time in three games, it was a walk-off win in overtime – on Sunday, a 26-23 decision over Chicago (5-3) at Soldier Field.
There's something to be said for knowing how to win. That means there's something to be said – something commendable – about these Saints.
OFFENSE: It's not easy to quantify what the Saints were able to do against the Bears, considering their extenuating circumstances. New Orleans faced the Bears without three of their top four receivers (Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Marquez Callaway), and quarterback Drew Brees still engineered an offense that completed 31 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 122 yards on 30 carries. A week after going 12-for-14 on third-down attempts, the Saints went 2-for-13 but converted two of three times on fourth down, and produced another momentum-grabbing, two-minute touchdown drive before halftime. It was the kind of grit-it-out that adds to the character that already has been built by the Saints.
DEFENSE: The Saints have had their share of down moments defensively this season, but the unit rose up repeatedly when it needed to against Chicago. It allowed three big plays – completions of 50 and 24 yards on a touchdown drive, and a 38-yard run. But the Saints held Chicago to 329 total yards, limited the Bears to 5 of 15 on third-down conversion attempts, came up with an interception (by cornerback Marshon Lattimore) and a fourth-down stop, and sacked Nick Foles five times – once each by Malcolm Jenkins, David Onyemata, Cam Jordan and Trey Hendrickson, and a half-sack shared by Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins. And the red-zone stop it had – forcing a field goal, rather than allowing a touchdown in the first half – proved to be pivotal. If the big plays totally won't be eliminated, at least the Saints have shown the ability to overcome them.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Wil Lutz missed a chip-shot field goal attempt, from 27 yards, in the first half. Other than that, New Orleans had an outstanding day on special teams. Lutz atoned for that miss by making his other four attempts, including the walk-off from 35 yards in overtime; Deonte Harris returned three kickoffs for 70 yards and three punts for 67; and the Saints allowed 61 yards on four kickoff returns and 17 yards on three punt returns. It was one of the better all-around days for the units.