For the last three years the New Orleans Saints have played the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field and for the last three years, the Chicago Bears have won. The cold weather did not appear to be as much of a factor as good defensive plays and poor offensive ones.
Saints QB Drew Brees (24/43, 232 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) struggled through most of the first half while Bears QB Kyle Orton (24/40, 172, 0 TD, 2 INTs) looked better in the first half than in the second. The Saints did well against the Bears’ top ten ranked rushing defense as they racked up 119 yards on the ground, 87 by RB Pierre Thomas. The Bears were only able to get 55 rushing yards despite rookie sensation RB Matt Forte who has been key to their offense this season.
It took about 12 seconds for the Bears to grab the lead when FS Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown. The Saints then started to drive down the field but met resistance from the Bears defense when Brees was sacked for only the 11th time this season. The sack was negated by a holding penalty but the drive stalled again three plays later when Brees threw his 15th interception of the season on a deep pass intended for WR Lance Moore who was in double coverage.
The Bears, however, could not capitalize on the turnover and had to punt. Rookie RB Matt Forte injured his toe on that possession and returned at the end of the first quarter.
After three trips into Chicago territory and the Saints not getting any further than the Bears 39 yard line, Usama Young, playing on the Saints special teams, downed the punt at the one yard line. On the next play, Kyle Orton fumbled off an early snap and the ball was recovered by Saints LB Jonathan Vilma. The Saints were able to capitalize on the turnover when Brees threw a short pass to RB Pierre Thomas for the touchdown.
Following Manning’s 52 yard return on the kickoff, CB Jason David grabbed RB Devin Hester as Orton was throwing a deep pass, giving Chicago the ball at the 5 yard line. Matt Forte ran in for the touchdown two plays later.
With a minute to go in the first half, Orton ran 6 yards into the end zone to put the score up 21 to 7.
On the first possession of the second half, the Saints drove down the field, converting two third downs and a fourth down, until Brees was intercepted for the second time at the Bears’ 9 yard line. The ensuing drive did not last long though as Orton threw an interception off the hands of Rasheed Davis to Josh Bullocks as the Bears had crossed midfield. Two plays later, Pierre Thomas ran the ball 42 yards to give the Saints their second touchdown.
Once again, the Saints were handicapped by early challenges. Payton’s 12th and 13th challenges of the year – both of which reversed the rulings on the field. The first was a challenge with about five minutes left in the second quarter of whether Brandon Lloyd caught the ball on third and five. The second was with about 9 and a half minutes left in the third to challenge where Pierre Thomas went out of bounds. The problem with the second is that the ball was placed closer but New Orleans was still charged a timeout because the referees did not spot it at the first down marker. This left the Saints with no challenges and only one timeout left for most of the second half.
As the fourth quarter began the Saints rookie K Garrett Hartley hit his 12th field goal from 30 yards to put New Orleans within 4 points at 17 to 21.
The teams then went on short drives, both failing to convert on fourth down. New Orleans held Chicago to a fourth and six and, instead of pushing New Orleans back, Chicago tried a fake punt to convert but the catch was ruled incomplete. New Orleans could not move the ball either trying twice to move the ball one yard for the first down.
Two plays later, Orton was intercepted again, this time by LB Scott Fujita with five and a half minutes left to play. Brees threw an 11 yard pass to WR Marques Colston to give the Saints the lead for the first time but there was too much time left on the clock. Chicago drove down the field and K Robbie Gould hit from 28 yards with two seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The overtime would be short lived as a pass interference call on S Roman Harper moved Chicago 38 yards and set up a 35 yard field goal to win the game.
Pierre Thomas had another good game with 87 yards rushing, 59 yards receiving, and two touchdowns. Colston led all receivers with 84 yards. RB Reggie Bush had 30 yards rushing on six carries and 16 yards receiving but injured himself as he ran oput of bounds.