Dec 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints inside linebacker David Hawthorne (57) and New Orleans Saints inside linebacker Ramon Humber (53) sack Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) in the first half of their game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
The New Orleans Saints have made their way back to the top of the NFC South with a prime-time road win over the Chicago Bears Monday night, keeping playoff hopes alive in the Big Easy. After losing seven consecutive games at opposing stadiums until the Week 9 contest against the Carolina Panthers, the Black and Gold have found three-straight wins on the road. Road warriors, they are.
Weather-wise, it was a sloppy evening in the Windy City. A slow start for both teams, the Saints finally found their momentum in the second quarter, eventually posting 24 unanswered points through the third quarter.
RB Mark Ingram led the way on the ground with 17 carries for 59 yards and a score in the final moments of the game, ending his touchdown slump that has lasted since Oct. 30. RB Pierre Thomas shed some light on the screen game, catching five passes for 83 yards.
Defensively, it was beautiful. New Orleans totaled seven sacks and three interceptions, two of those takeaways coming from undrafted rookie and my player of the game, Pierre Warren. Patrick Robinson was the first to pick off Jay Cutler, a play that came in the first quarter, but the ball was immediately given back to the Bears via a Nick Toon fumble.
Linebackers David Hawthorne and Junior Galette showed up big, real big. Hawthorne took down Cutler three times while Galette added two more sacks. NT John Jenkins added another along with DE Akiem Hicks, who just absolutely dominated his blocker, giving Cutler no time to think.
CB Keenan Lewis continued to display his shutdown talents, keeping WR Alshon Jeffrey contained in the “no-fly zone” for a majority of the game. Jamarca Sanford did end up getting the nod at strong safety, but Kenny Vaccaro still saw time there and in the slot, which for the most part, he handled fairly well.
Game balls go to Sean Payton and Rob Ryan. Payton made this past week incredibly intense for his team, cutting WR Joe Morgan, working out kickers, reportedly benching Vaccaro and chewing out several other players in his office. Ryan kept his defense in the game, aggressively dominating Cutler and the Bears’ offense.
It’s certainly not wrong to think that this past week helped get the Saints back on track for a playoff run. The season is far from over, and the Black and Gold control their own destiny. New Orleans (6-8) hosts the Atlanta Falcons (5-9) Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a place where Sean Payton and company once dominated. It’s win or go home for the Dirty Birds, and a victory for the Saints gets them one step closer to a division title and a postseason appearance.