At the time, it was big and as the game went on, it loomed even larger.
Fourth-down stops always are significant, and the one that the New Orleans Saints defense produced in the first quarter of Sunday's 21-9 victory over Chicago in their Wild Card playoff game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome proved vital.
New Orleans strategically took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, choosing to punt on fourth-and-4 from the Bears' 38 on their opening drive, forcing a three-and-out on defense, then cashing in on the short field with an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown drive.
Chicago's retaliatory drive to that began at its 20, and should have resulted in a touchdown. On first-and-10 from the Saints' 40, running back David Montgomery took the snap in the wildcat formation and lateraled the ball to receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who then pitched it back to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky's deep pass was on target for receiver Javon Wims in the end zone, but Wims – who had a step on Saints safety Marcus Williams – dropped the sure touchdown pass that possibly would have led to a tie score.
Given that break, the Saints held the Bears to six yards on the next two plays, a run for no gain and a six-yard completion, before facing fourth-and-4 from the 34.
From shotgun formation Trubisky took the snap and was forced to scramble right, but his lane to the first-down marker quickly was closed off.
He ran out of bounds after a two-yard gain, chased from behind by defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and stalked from the front by safety Malcolm Jenkins. With that scoring threat averted, New Orleans managed to close out the first half by only allowing a field goal on defense following a lost fumble, and the defense continued that domination throughout.