REFUSE TO LOSE: Scrappy Saints Slip Past Bears in OT for 4th Straight Win

Photo Credit: Chicago Bears on Twitter

Go ahead and raise your hand if you were among one of the hundreds of thousands Who Dats yesterday evening, that were watching on from home with the uneasy feeling that the New Orleans Saints were headed for a tough loss on the road against the Chicago Bears.

After trailing by as many as 10 points late in the 1st Half and seemingly destined for disappointment, the Black and Gold “refused to lose” — as they rallied to score 20 unanswered points to re-take the lead and ultimately hung on for dear life — before kicker Wil Lutz‘s 35-yard field goal with 1:40 remaining in overtime, allowed the short-handed but scrappy Saints to earn their 4th straight victory in a row.

The favorable outcome also lifted the Saints’  win-loss record to (5-2) overall, and for the moment vaulted them into a 1st place tie in the NFC South Division along with the (5-2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers; who are heavily favored in their game against the New York Giants later tonight, and who New Orleans will face on the road in a highly-anticipated and nationally-televised match-up next Sunday Night.

But as they sip on their coffee this morning, the Saints at least for the moment are more than just happy to have survived their trip to the “Windy City” with a hard-fought win — despite the long odds that had appeared to be stacked against them — the biggest obstacle of which was playing in tough conditions without the services of 3 0f their 4 starting wide receivers in the line-up.

But the Saints were able to persevere thanks to the contributions of several other players on both sides of the football as well as their special teams, specifically starting QB and team “living legend” Drew Brees, superstar #1 RB Alvin Kamara, and 2nd year kick-off / punt returner Deonte Harris.

Brees completed a 14-yard pass to WR Tre’Quan Smith to get New Orleans into Chicago territory on what ultimately was the game-winning drive, and Kamara had a crucial 20-yard run to get the Saints in field goal range at the Bears 11-yard line.

After a Saints delay-of-game penalty, Lutz made his 4th field goal of the game as the Black and Gold won their 6th straight game in a row against the (5-3) Bears, and remained firmly in contention for one of the 7 available Playoff spots in the NFC at the end of the season.

Although he wasn’t as nearly sharp under center as he has been in the past, the ageless Brees still managed to complete 31 of 41 passes for 280 yards with 2 TD’s and no interceptions. Kamara had a grand total of 163 yards from scrimmage (67 rushing yards, and 96 receiving yards on 9 catches), including a spectacular 47-yard catch-and-run in the 1st quarter.

But aside from Kamara, the most valuable player yesterday might have been the 2nd year star Harris, who ran back 3 punts for a total of 67 return yards, including a sensational 42-yard punt return down the right sideline in the 3rd Quarter that allowed the Saints to tie the score at 13-13.

On the defensive side of the ball, the much-maligned and recent-heavily criticized New Orleans secondary had a slightly better performance than the ones that they have in the past several contests; but yet for a 3rd straight game still managed to come up with big plays when they were needed the most.

The biggest plays on defense came in the 2nd Half and then in the overtime period, which included  a key early 3rd Quarter interception by #1 CB Marshon Lattimore and a sack by All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan near the end of regulation that kept Chicago out of the end-zone before they eventually kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime.

4th year Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson then later notched a critically-important sack of Bears starting QB Nick Foles late in the overtime period that forced a punt and gave the Black and Gold possession of the ball for what ultimately was the game-winning drive.

Clearly the biggest takeaway from yesterday’s hard-fought and much-needed win though, was how the Saints for yet another consecutive week managed to continually keep fighting when it seemed that everything was going against them,

“That’s what it is (what we are as a team): Battle-tested,” Brees said to reporters in a Zoom teleconference after the game’s conclusion. “No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we’re going to be able to draw on these other moments.”

“It’s just belief,” Brees added. “Belief that, put ourselves in position to win the game and we’ll win it.”

Brees’ sentiments were echoed loudly afterwards by teammate / linebacker Demario Davis and head coach Sean Payton.

“We kept swinging as a team,” Davis emphasized. “So just proud of the team and the way that we were able to handle that, and go through that adversity.”

There’s a little bit of grit and toughness (with our team), and it’s something that you begin to build I don’t think you just start out with it”, a visibly-relieved Payton said. “I think the experience at certain positions like quarterback, give us confidence to make enough plays, and part of that is through demonstrated ability.”

It goes without saying that the Saints up to this point have had a wide variety of heart-stopping moments and situations that they’ve forced Who Dat fans to suffer through, during their first 7 games of the season.

Photo Credit: Chicago Bears on Twitter (Original by Nam L. Huh)

But despite it all, New Orleans has continually found ways to emerge victorious when just about everyone else (including some of their very own fans) have counted them out — and considered them to be a team in decline — instead of one that’s capable of winning a Super Bowl this year.

And next Sunday Night in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers in what might be the biggest game of their entire season, would be the perfect time once again for them to “refuse to lose”….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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