While Bridgewater, who finished for 23-for-38, was not perfect on the day, he made plays when the team needed them down the stretch.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:
The Saints came into week seven of the NFL season without pro bowl QB Drew Brees, superstar RB Alvin Kamara, and starting TE Jared Cook. It would be understandable for the team without all of these offensive weapons to struggle against a vaunted Bears defense that had not allowed more than 24 points in a game all season.
In a shocking turn of events that included 27 unanswered points, the Saints did the complete opposite.
Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater threw for 281 yards and a pair of touchdowns and RB Latavius Murray finished with 150 total yards to lead the New Orleans Saints to a 36-25 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.
While Bridgewater, who finished for 23-for-38, was not perfect on the day, he made plays when the team needed them down the stretch. Since Brees went down in week two with the thumb injury, Bridgewater has risen to the occasion. In the five full games as starting QB, Bridgewater has thrown seven touchdowns to two interceptions, including a four touchdown game against the Buccaneers in week five.
Bridgewater’s favorite target on the afternoon and the season so sar was none other than superstar WR Michael Thomas, who hauled in nine catches for a game-high 131 receiving yards on 11 targets. Even without his star QB under center, Thomas has proven to be one of the most consistent WRs in the NFL. Thomas has finished only one game this season with fewer than eight catches and 89 yards receiving. He also came into the game leading the league with 53 receptions through six weeks.
However, the surprise performance of the day has to go to Saints RB Latavius Murray. Murray, who was drafted by the Raiders in 2013 and played second fiddle to Dalvin Cook in his short tenure with the Vikings, has been a nice complementary piece in this Saints offense. With Kamara out due to an ankle injury, Murray stepped up big time.
The sixth year back out of UCF had his highest amount of carries (27) and rushing yards (119) in a single game since week six of last season, when he finished with 24 carries for 155 rushing yards as a member of the Vikings in a win against the Cardinals. Murray also recorded a season-high with five catches and 39 receiving yards. If Kamara is forced to miss more time with his ankle injury, the Saints will be in good hands with Murray especially in a great matchup against the Arizona Cardinals next week, who have been statistically atrocious against running backs this season.
Even though the Bears struggled mightily for most of the afternoon, the game actually started in favor of Chicago.
With 11:33 left in the first half, the Chicago Bears looked like they were in a prime position to take control of the game. Kicker Eddy Pineiro connected on a 46-yard field goal to give the Bears its first lead of the day after WR Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown to cut the Saints lead to 9-7.
Things would take a turn for the worse awfully quick for the Bears.
After taking that 10-9 lead early in the second quarter, the Bears would go on to be outscored 27-15, with all 15 of those points being scored in garbage time already trailing 36-10 late in the 4th quarter.
Simply put, the Bears failed to show up at home against a injury-riddled Saints team missing multiple starters. However, the Bears were also without one of its best run stoppers in DE Akiem Hicks, who was placed on IR with an elbow injury earlier in the week. It would be fair to say that Murray might have not had such a great performance if Hicks were in there.
However, that’s no excuse for the anemic performance the Bears offense put on display Sunday. For the sixth consecutive game, the Bears failed to reach 300 total yards of offense. Just pitiful.
After suffering a torn labrum and a dislocated shoulder in his non throwing shoulder early in week four against the Vikings, Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky returned to action after missing three weeks of rest and boy did it show. While 250 yards passing and two touchdowns might say otherwise, Trubisky played poorly up until the final four minutes of play when the game was already out of reach. He repeatedly missed open receivers and continuously threw into double and even triple coverage at times. The boo birds were out early and often in Chicago on Sunday.
Another no-show for the Bears was rookie RB David Montgomery. Montgomery, who was a second round pick out of Iowa State, continued his slow start to his rookie campaign as he had a season low four touches. After logging back-to-back 60 yard rushing performances in weeks two and three, Montgomery has seen his touches decrease each of the past three games.
Trailing 12-10 at halftime, the Bears seemed prepared to come out in the second half to set the tone by establishing the ground game with Montgomery. On the first play, Montgomery took the handoff and fumbled the ball with the Saints ultimately recovering it at the bottom of the pile. While the game ultimately ended up getting out of hand from there on out, it was RB Tarik Cohen that ultimately saw a majority of the snaps for the remainder of the game with Montgomery sprinkled in only here and there. Ultimately, the Bears got punished on the ground as the Saints recorded 151 rushing yards compared to Chicago’s measly 17 yards rushing.
One of the few bright spots on the day for Chicago was WR Allen Robinson. Robinson finished the day with a season-high 10 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 16 targets. Even though the Bears offense has been abysmal all year, Robinson has been the only consistent performer on the offensive side of the ball. Over the past three games, Robinson has caught 24 passes on 32 targets for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
Even though it was rumored throughout the game by the broadcast booth that Brees could return next week at home against the Cardinals, I doubt we’d see him return the field. If Bridgewater or the team had struggled since Brees’s injury I could understand it but not when you’ve gone undefeated in his absence. Sitting atop the NFC South with a 6-1 record and a bye coming up in two weeks, there’s no reason to rush Brees, who’s currently 40 years old, back into game action no earlier than need be. With the toughest part of their schedule over with, the Saints “should” cruise into the playoffs with relatively matchups against the Falcons (two games), Cardinals, and at the Buccaneers in the upcoming weeks. It also helps that their toughest remaining opponents (49ers and Colts), are back-to-back home games in early December.
For the Bears, you could argue quite the opposite as its schedule does them no favors from here on out. After playing four of its first six games at home (one in London) and going 3-3, the schedule gets much harder for the Bears who have to play a combination of the Packers, Chiefs, Rams, Cowboys, and Lions (twice) over the ensuing weeks. If the Bears do end up missing out on the playoffs this season by a game or two, you have to look back at these two crucial losses to the Raiders and Saints as potential what if games come December and January. Even though the Bears have an elite defense, you have to wonder if what we saw today against the Saints could be a potential pattern for the future. If the Bears woes on offense continue, it could lead to the defense being on the field way too much and ultimately surrendering more points then it’s accustomed to.