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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Game Notes | Week 15: Saints @ Bears

It's the rematch of the 2006 NFC Championship game, and I'm officially extremely nervous. I've got Pierre Thomas going against a bruising Bears defense in both "expert" playoff leagues that I'm in. I had to start him over Frank Gore in the FFIndepth league, and I opted to start him over Santana Moss in the SOFA Auction league . . . that's the one I'm worried about. Pierre has a better chance for a TD or two, but he also has a better chance for a 3 or 4 point fantasy performance. In the end, I figure I gotta roll with the guy who's been hot.

Danieal Manning takes the opening kickoff back for a TD, which gives me some leeway in case my Pierre Thomas decision backfires.

Collinsworth says that Sean Payton loves Pierre Thomas and is confident that Thomas can be their early down back because he can do everything in the offense. Defensive holding penalty on Corey Graham takes a big Bears sack off the board. Devery Henderson's bad hands pop up again on a slant pattern, and Collinsworth calls him out for not having the onions to go over the middle. Brees is pressured, throws into heavy traffic, and it's picked by Mike Brown. Brees has 19 TDs to 4 picks at home, but he's now 7/11 on the road. Saints are 6-1 at home and 1-5 on the road.

Matt Forte was shaken up on his first carry of Thursday's game. He came off limping, and trainers were looking at his right ankle on the sidelines. Adrian Peterson has come on to replace him. Adam Schefter says Forte suffered a toe injury, and his return is questionable.

Orton has Devin Hester wide open deep and overthrows him by a step. That one would have gone all the way.

Nice 12-yard screen to Pierre, and then Reggie Bush gets a couple of carries. Brees can't hook up with Colston once again on third down. Their timing is still way off. Why can't they get on the same page? Where's Lance Moore been in this game?

Forte update: He jogged back onto the field to a chorus of cheers at the end of the first quarter and appears set to resume playing.

Brees finally converts a third-down attempt when he makes it a point to find Lance Moore. He just put one right in Robert Meacham's brisket, and he flat-out dropped it. Bill Walton voice: that's hoooooorrible. Alex Brown takes down Brees on the next play, and the Saints are missing starting LT Jammal Brown. This time Brees converts a 3rd & 16 with Colston wide open in the middle of the field, 24-yard gain. Saints overall having a tough time protecting Brees.

Marshall Faulk says Reggie Bush has trouble running between the tackles because he always exaggerates his cuts instead of gradually changing direction and taking shorter strides.

Forte back in, but Kreutz & Orton fumble the snap away at the 1-yard line. Karney, not Pierre Thomas, gets the first call. Give that ball to Pierre, damnit! Yes! Next play is a swing pass to Thomas for a diving touchdown. Thank you, Olin Kreutz.

Manning answers with another nice return, this one going 52 yards. Wow, Hester just toasted Jason David, and David reached out and grabbed him right in front of the end zone. This one is going to be a goal-line plunge for Forte. Not so fast -- it's going to be spotted at the 5-yard line, and first play is a slant to Desmond Clark to the one. Now Forte waltzes in for the score, 14-7 Bears.

Reggie Bush comes off with a slight limp. Trainers take a look at his left knee, but he's alright.

Brandon Lloyd juggles the ball, and the Saints knew it. Play is reversed, and Collinsworth is right: Bears still looking for a 2nd receiver.

Lance Moore, not Bush, is back for the punt return. Bush was ready to come back on the field a minute ago, perhaps the Saints are playing it safe. Brees throws a one-hopper to Moore, and the Saints will punt again. Bears once again get the ball in great field position. A few short passes, and then Clark had just dropped a sure TD in the end zone. Orton finds a running lane and dives in for the TD, 21-7 Bears.

Reggie Bush did not start the second half, but he did come in on third down. Pierre Thomas looks noticeable better as a runner than Bush does -- too much juking out of Bush. Pierre gets a bad spot on a third down pass, and the Saints are going to challenge this one. Brees has the ball knocked down and picked by O-Gun, and the Saints miss a prime scoring opportunity. Billy Miller is catching an earful for not blocking O-Gun.

Adam Schefter talked to Lovie Smith, who said that X-rays were negative on Forte's toe and there will be no limitations on him in the second half.

Forte sets the Bears rookie receiving record with 57 catches. Orton hits a wide open Rashied Davis right in the hands, and Davis' dropsies continue. Josh Bullocks picks it, and the Saints get a much-needed break.

Brees averaging just 5 YPA. Alright, Pierre! There he goes, up the middle, finds an opening and goes 43 yards for the TD. Blow up, Pierre. Attaboy, 21-14 Bears.

58 plays for the Saints, just 37 for Chicago. Wow. Saints have had nice opportunities to go deep, but it looks he's trying to wear down the Bears D. Reggie Bush sitting on the bench with a heavy coat wrapped around him, watching Pierre Thomas bludgeon the Bears defense at crunch time. Dump-off to Thomas for his 6th reception, and the Saints have it at the Bears' 12-yard line. Third down, let's see if they can pick up a big 3rd & long here. No dice, they'll have to settle for the field goal, 21-17. Garret Hartley has yet to miss a kick for the Saints.

Just thinking about Reggie Bush. Surprising that he sat out that whole drive, but it's just not his kind of game in cold weather on a frozen field. Just as importantly, it's obvious that Pierre Thomas isn't just a better runner but a better football player. The Saints are staying committed to the ground game for the second straight week, and it's paying off for them.

Bears go 3 & out again, and they're at 41 offensive plays. They haven't done anything on offense in the second half, and Orton can't get a passing game going. Bears go for the fake punt, and Maynard hits Adrian Peterson with a lob over the middle of the field, but Peterson loses the ball at the end of the play. That's going to be a convoluted review. It's Saints ball.

First down for New Orleans at the Bears 48-yard line. A couple of plays to Pierre, and it's 4th & 1. Toss to Thomas, and that play gets blown up. What a catastrophe.

Bears have 150 yards of offense, and I'm not sure what they have beyond Matt Forte. Orton pulls a happy feet routine and throws a pick to Fujita. Saints get it at the 30, but Shockey just drops it right on his hands. That play could have gone for 15-20 yards. Alex Brown just abused Evans and threw Thomas to the ground for a huge loss. Brees hits Colston over the middle for a 20 yard gain on 3rd & 15. Brees hits Colston again on third down for the TD, and it's 24-21 Saints with 3 minutes left. Saints have converted all 3 Bears turnovers into points.

Collinsworth says the key to the game has been the Bears inability to run the ball against a Saints defense playing soft coverage. Orton to Hester for a nice gainer, and then Orton gets nervous again on the next pass. What is it about Brandon Lloyd that he only catches tough passes? He's like a bad-ball hitter. Bears have it at the Saints 15-yard line with 20 seconds left. Overtime? Or will Orton be able to squeeze it into the end zone? Greg Olsen coming up huge on this drive, and he's up to 8 receptions on the night. Orton looks for Olsen in the end zone, and Jason David was draped all over him (as usual). They better find a way to cover Olsen here with 7 seconds left. Orton sacked, and Bears get timeout with 2 seconds left. Gould drills it, and we've got free football coming.

Wow, can you make that call? Orton goes deep to Hester, and pass interference is called. That's going to put the Bears in easy field goal range. It's a Herm Edwards special as Orton scoots back and takes a knee. I hate when teams do that. Just kick the damn ball or if you're going to kick it. I hope they miss. Sean Payton answers with the Shanny special and calls a timeout a split second before Gould's kick.

Collinsworth is right: Devin Hester was the difference in the game with his pass interference penalties. He drew 77 yards in P.I. penalties.

Gould drills it, and the Bears win 27-24.

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