The macro is that the New Orleans Saints did exactly what they needed Sunday in their Wild Card playoff game against the Bears in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – they survived and advanced, with a 21-9 victory that put them into a divisional playoff game against Tampa Bay next Sunday in the Superdome.
The micro is that New Orleans' defense was a vice.
The Saints (13-4) largely eliminated Chicago (8-9) because defensively, New Orleans eliminated every threat mounted by the Bears, which allowed the Saints offense the luxury of gaining its footing in the second half. Here's a unit breakdown:
OFFENSE: There was noticeable meat left on the bone. True, Chicago has a stingy defense and very little, if anything, was going to come easy. New Orleans, in fact, was efficient in the red zone (3 for 4) and on third down (11 of 17) while totaling 385 yards. But a missed field goal took points off the board, and a lost fumble put Chicago in position to score its first points, a field goal. The offense just couldn't quite sync up in the first half (seven points, 174 yards) and the pass rush pressure the Bears were able to apply was significant. Drew Brees (28 of 39 for 265 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions) took what was available and the running game (123 yards on 35 carries, including 99 and a touchdown on 23 carries by Alvin Kamara) helped provide balance. But there were a few that got away, and the Saints know it.
DEFENSE: Chicago didn't cross the 200-yard threshold until the fourth quarter. It didn't score a touchdown until the final play of the game. Its first third-down conversion came in the fourth quarter (it was 1 for 11 on third down) and it was stopped on its lone fourth down attempt. Defensively, New Orleans was about as dominating as it could have hoped to be in every area. Even when backed up because of a lost fumble by the offense, with Chicago starting a drive first-and-10 at the Saints' 24-yard line, the defense bowed up and – with the help of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Bears – forced a field goal. The unsportsmanlike penalty turned a third-and-5 into a third-and-20, but the Bears hadn't done anything to suggest they could gain the five, and the Saints hadn't done anything to suggest they'd allow it. Chicago finished with 239 yards, just 48 rushing on 19 attempts, as the Saints asserted their dominance.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Wil Lutz missed a field-goal attempt and even though it was a 50-yard try, the level of concern has ramped up to an uncomfortable temperature. He's a great kicker, and even great ones struggle. He'll get another week, and perhaps another opportunity or two, to get it straightened out. Thomas Morstead had three short punts, but two were fair caught inside the 20 and even though they weren't perfect, forcing the Bears to traverse a long field was a plus with the way the defense was playing. The kickoff cover team had some work; Chicago's Cordarrelle Patterson returns just about anything that doesn't sail over the end zone, and he returned two for a 34-yard average. But the Saints didn't let him break one and, again, anything less than a touchdown return was a positive because defensively, New Orleans wasn't going to allow much of anything.
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears matchup in the Wild Card round of the 2020 NFL playoffs.