After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over Bears

After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over Bears
Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater prepares to fling his beanie into a crowd of onlooking fans as he departs Soldier Field in Chicago (Source: Edwin Goode, WVUE-FOX 8)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Take One: Sean Payton shines

Game ball goes to the head coach on Sunday. Without Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, Sean Payton devised his best coaching effort yet.

Depth and talent only takes you so far. In the NFL, you need a coaching staff that can take a set of circumstances and devise a way to win. Payton did that Sunday by constantly keeping the Bears defense guessing.

Nowhere was that more evident than the third and two call in the third quarter. By now you’ve seen it, Teddy Bridgewater handed it to fullback Zach Line, who pitched it to Taysom Hill on the option who gained 23 yards. At that point, you could sense the Bears were out of answers.

Later in the drive, Payton sent Hill in motion to the right and ran the goal line wide receiver screen to him that normally goes to Michael Thomas.

For five straight weeks, Payton has taken the challenge of not having his Hall of Fame quarterback head on. He didn’t make excuses and instead got to work. The results speak for themselves. They’re 5-0 since Drew Brees went down and, frankly, Payton and his staff are one of the biggest reasons why.

Take Two: Elite O line play

Of all the things that played out Sunday, the offensive line’s dominance was the most unexpected. No one expected the Saints to get beat all day up front, but there was an expectation of more of a tug-of-war between both sides.

That didn’t happen. One side clearly won the battle in the trenches, and that side wore those crisp white uniforms.

Sunday’s offensive line effort immediately took me back to the Buffalo victory in 2017. I remember leaving that game that day and thinking just how much they took over what was a stellar defensive front.

That same feeling came up Sunday. Erik McCoy, Terron Armstead, Larry Warford, Ryan Ramczyk and Andrus Peat beat up a Bears defensive front that had the best pass rusher in football. Khalil Mack’s name was not called all day.

In the second half, there was a mental shift in the stadium after that unit completely took over the game. They cleared holes for Latavius Murray’s best day as a Saint and gave Bridgewater all day to throw the ball.

After the game, everyone in the locker room understood that the key to the entire offensive performance was the play of the offensive line.

Take Three: Defensive dominant once again

Another week, another top-notch defensive effort by the Saints. The Bears offense is inept and couldn’t do anything against one of the best defenses in football. They sacked Mitchell Trubisky twice and forced two turnovers. They held the Bears to just 17 yards rushing.

At no point did it ever feel like the Bears were going to catch fire offensively and take over.

Through this five-game win streak, the most consistent thing about the on-field product has been the play of the defense. They added another stellar effort in Chicago.

Take Four: Spotty special teams

The Saints’ exceptional special teams unit had a rough day at the office Sunday. After an early blocked punt by J.T. Gray that led to a safety, they struggled the rest of the way. They gave up a 102-yard kickoff return to Corrdarelle Patterson for a touchdown, then had a Deonte Harris touchdown called back on a questionable holding call on Line.

The always-reliable Wil Lutz missed two field goals, and they allowed the Bears to get one and nearly two onside kick recoveries. The first recovery gave the Bears another set of plays. One of those plays resulted in an Eli Apple injury.

All in all, it wasn’t their best day but this group is too good not to bounce back.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • After an average effort in Jacksonville, ’Steady Teddy’ was back this week. Bridgewater enjoyed a clean pocket most of day and put forth a smooth, clean effort. He finished 23/38 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Once again, he did not throw an interception. Watching Bridgewater, it’s clear how much he’s built for the style of game the Saints played today. As I was watching the Bears offense, I couldn’t help but think that he would be a perfect fit for that kind of team. Regardless of what happens in the future, at 5-0 Bridgewater has shown why he’s the highest paid backup quarterback in football.
  • Not sure why the Bears didn’t double Michael Thomas. They were a little too confident that Kyle Fuller could slow him down. Thomas finished with nine catches for 131 yards.
  • Kudos to Latavius Murray for his effort Sunday. He benefitted from the offensive line’s takeover in the second half but also showed some impressive vision and cutback ability. Murray is the style of back that gets better later in games when his carries pick up. Against the Bears, he got his first opportunity to show that and made the most of it. He finished with 27 carries, 119 yards and two touchdowns.
  • C.J. Gardner Johnson looked very comfortable filling in for P.J. Williams. His physical style of play stood out most.
  • A.J. Klein is playing really good football right now. He had a pass break up early in the game and recovered a fumble that was caused by Marcus Davenport.
  • The same can be said for Vonn Bell. He also got a fumble recovery and made an impressive tackle on Tarik Cohen in the open field on third down short of the chains.

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