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New Orleans Saints formulate the right numbers to produce Wild Card game victory over Chicago

'The thing we harped on was, we don't have to do anything differently than what we've done'

Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears matchup in the Wild Card round of the 2020 NFL playoffs.

What the New Orleans Saints did Sunday in their 21-9 victory over Chicago in an NFC Wild Card playoff game, was what the Saints consistently did during the regular season.

They stacked up the kinds of numbers that, even without knowing the final score, left little doubt as to who was the winner.

New Orleans won the first-down battle, 27-11. It was better on third down – 11 of 17 for the Saints, 1 of 10 for Chicago.

It totaled more yards (385-239), ran more plays (75-49), was better in the red zone (3 of 4, vs. 1 of 2) and dominated time of possession (38:58-21:02).

Collectively, winning numbers.

"I think we had the time of possession for (almost) 40 minutes and we converted on third down, we kept the offense on the field as much as we could, giving our defense a break and the rest they needed to go out and pitch 1-of-10 on third down," center Erik McCoy said Monday. "Definitely, the time of possession, conversions and having a pretty balanced attack was a big part of the offensive day."

"I think the thing we harped on going into this game was, we don't have to do anything differently than what we've done week in and week out," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "Which is, line up correctly, know our assignments, play fast, play physical, play with good fundamentals and play with great effort. You do those things and the rest will take care of itself.

"(Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen) D.A. always talks about, 'If you look right, you'll do right.' So just making sure our eyes are in the right spots and we're locked in on what we've got to do. When your key moves, wherever it goes you get there, and you get there physically, violently and play the style of football that we're known for playing."

New Orleans – 13-4 entering Sunday's Divisional playoff game against Tampa Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – did all that, and more.

"There's that added sense of urgency because you have to win to continue playing," Coach Sean Payton said. "I thought defensively, we played very well throughout the game and in the second half, we were able to put three drives together that really took up most of the second half.

"We get still photos of each drive and when you get those, they're like a little booklet. I can tell when we've had a long drive when that's pretty thick. So those first two scoring drives (lasting 7:29 and 8:51) were important, that third drive that resulted in a play down at the 1-yard line (lasting 5:16) kind of really swayed the time of possession.

"Defensively, we did a real good job with third down and offensively, there were a number of things that we have to clean up or have to clean up and yet, the third down numbers weren't poor."

Defensively, the Saints eliminated Chicago's offensive strength, its running game. New Orleans limited the Bears to 48 yards on 19 carries, forcing Chicago away from the ground even when the score was close.

That, perhaps, was the most significant number, given what the Bears wanted to do

"Sometimes those (run defense) numbers can be a little inflated due to if you're up big, teams have to abandon the run and that type of stuff," Rankins said. "But I think (Sunday), their defense played extremely well, their defense is extremely talented and did some things to keep them in the game. They never really had to abandon the run, per se.

"And we knew pretty much the way they had been rolling down the latter half of the season, kind of how they got back into this whole playoff picture was on the back of (running back) David Montgomery and that kind of thing. So we knew they were going to come in and try to run the ball. We knew this wasn't going to be a thing where (quarterback) Mitchell Trubisky is going to drop back and throw it 50, 60 times. We knew they were going to come in and try to establish a physical brand of football and try to run the ball, and try to keep the ball out of our offense's hands.

"But knowing that, it kind of goes back to what we've preached all year – just get your eyes in the right spots and coming off the ball and being physical, and resetting the line of scrimmage and maintaining gap integrity. I think that's the biggest thing when it comes to run defense, guys just understanding where they've got to be and being there, and trusting that everybody else is going to be where they say they're going to be. And when you do that, when you've got 11 guys doing that consistently, down in and down out, and doing it violently and physically, it's going to be tough to run on a group like that."

Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears matchup in the Wild Card round of the 2020 NFL playoffs.

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