The Chicago Bears are back in the playoffs! This Sunday's game will mark their second postseason appearance in the past three years. The last Bears playoff contest followed the 2018 campaign, and it was a game that Bears fans would love to forget. This Wild Card Weekend, they visit the New Orleans Saints down in the bayou.
The Saints currently have a slight advantage over the Bears in the all-time series as they sport a 17-15 lead. However, Chicago holds a 2-0 advantage over New Orleans in the playoffs.
NFC Wild Card
As the Bears seek to make it 3-0 against Saints and schedule a date with the Packers at Lambeau Field, one should look no further than Week 8 of the 2020 season. That happens to be the last time Chicago and New Orleans met head-to-head, albeit under very different circumstances.
The Chicago Bears entered the November 1st slugfest at 5-2 and in the early stages of their losing streak. Meanwhile, the Saints headed north with a 4-2 record. Nick Foles was the signal-caller for the Bears at the time. Nevertheless, the Bears and Saints put on a show and gave the fans an exciting game.
The Saints kicked off the festivities with a field goal. The Bears responded with a field goal of their own, a drive during which Mitchell Trubisky returned for one play only to leave with a shoulder injury. Following that, the Saints drove down the field and Wil Lutz surprisingly missed on his field goal attempt. Chicago then put together the flashiest drive of the afternoon, and possibly of the entire year. They marched 80 yards downfield on just four plays for a touchdown. Nick Foles connected on a 50-yard pass to rookie Darnell Mooney followed by a 24-yard touchdown strike to Allen Robinson.
As the Bears sported a 10-3 lead, the two teams exchanged three punts. This led to the Bears finally tacking onto their lead. A seven-play, 50-yard drive culminated in a 29-yard field goal from Cairo Santos. With only 1:30 left in the half, the Saints struck back quickly with a touchdown. A nine-play, 68-yard drive riddled with Bears mistakes allowed Drew Brees to find Jared Cook in the end zone for a touchdown. Chuck Pagano, for some reason, thought it would be a brilliant idea for the Bears to play a soft defense and that tackling was optional. Nonetheless, the Bears carried a 13-10 lead into halftime.
During the initial stages of the second half, the wheels fell off for the Bears. Their first offensive possession of the third quarter lasted just five plays, yielding zero yards a punt. The Saints then took the ball down the field and tied the game on a Wil Lutz field goal. This juncture is where the game got interesting and the tides turned against the Bears.
On the first play of the Bears' consequent drive, a personal foul penalty on Javon Wims negated a five-yard Foles completion to Allen Robinson. Wims and Saints' cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson got into an altercation that spiraled out of control and resulted in Wims being disqualified from the game after throwing punches at Gardner-Johnson.
The bone-headed mistake set the team back to second down and 20 at their own 21-yard line instead of having second down and five at their 36-yard line. As a result, Nick Foles threw an interception on the next play to gift the Saints excellent field position.
The Bears' defense held their own and only allowed a field goal to the Saints. Once leading by ten, the Bears found themselves trailing by three. Shortly after the New Orleans score, Chicago went three-and-out and punted the ball back. Surprisingly, both teams traded turnovers on downs. The Saints went on to score on a seven-play, 64-yard drive capped off by a Brees 20-yard touchdown pass to Taysom Hill. The Bears followed that up with a scoring drive of their own that saw Darnell Mooney find the end zone on a three-yard reception. This drive lasted 11 plays and spanned 75 yards.
The Finish: Regulation Time
The Bears' defense came up with a huge stop once again and forced the Saints to punt. The offense, only down three points with 1:51 left in the game, advanced 35 yards on twelve plays to set up a Cairo Santos game-tying field goal. The Brazilian kicker booted a 51-yarder cleanly through the uprights and sent the Bears and Saints into overtime.
New Orleans won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. Given the way the game was trending, this had the feeling of a bad finish for the Bears. That's not to negate the defense's outstanding efforts to give the Bears a chance, however. They stepped up and stopped the Saints' offense dead in their tracks, forcing another punt and giving the offense a chance to win the game. Surprisingly (or not), the offense ran six plays, picking up just one first down on a net of eight yards before stalling out and punting back to the Saints. This sequence ultimately led to the Saints driving 52 yards on seven plays and Wil Lutz drilling the game-winning field goal.
Overall, it was a highly competitive game against a darn good team, all things considered. Even so, there are no moral victories in the NFL. This loss dropped the Bears to 5-3 and propelled the Saints to 5-2. The Bears went on to lose their next three more games, but that doesn't matter now considering they're in the playoffs. In conclusion, losing to the Saints in Week 8 eight stung, but the Bears have a shot to exact revenge today.
The Bears will have Mitchell Trubisky under center this time around and they seem to have found their identity on offense. Given they won't have Roquan Smith or Darnell Mooney this time around, the Bears will have to scratch and claw to overcome a tough Saints squad. Hopefully, Javon Wims has matured and learned his lesson so he doesn't get baited into fighting Chauncy Gardner-Johnson... he's ready for it.
The Bears vs. Saints Wild Card Weekend matchup kicks off at 3:40 PM CT. The game will air on CBS and Nickelodeon. For a preview of all the storylines heading into the matchup, tune in to the Bears On Tap podcast.