The New Orleans Saints will be seeking their 5th consecutive victory Sunday afternoon, when they travel to the “Windy City” to face the Chicago Bears at the legendary Soldier Field. Kickoff is slated for 3:25 p.m. Central time and the game will be televised to a majority of the nation on CBS. Locally, you can watch on WWL-TV New Orleans Channel 4.
Coming into this game, the Saints have a 5-1 win-loss record and have won their past four straight games without starting QB Drew Brees, who is still recovering from surgery for a torn thumb ligament on his throwing hand. In his absence, back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater has since led the Saints offensive attack and has done a remarkable job at keeping New Orleans competitive in every game, aided further by solid coaching and the stellar play of the Saints defense.
However, New Orleans will very likely be without the services of starting #1 RB Alvin Kamara, who is still nursing injuries to both his knee and ankle and did not practice yesterday. Kamara is likely to be either severely limited or possibly even ruled out for the game, which would mean back-up RB Latavius Murray could see extensive action.
— Bearsessed®️ (@bearsessed) October 17, 2019
Meanwhile, the Bears have a 3-2 win-loss record and are led mainly by their very reputable defensive unit, which is regarded throughout the NFL as having the League’s #1 overall defense — led by All-Pro outside edge pass rusher Khalil Mack and an opportunistic secondary whose defensive backs and safeties routinely force multiple turnovers.
But the Bears might be limited in what they can do offensively in this game, as their starting QB Mitch Trubisky is expected to be a game-time decision as of now, after injuring his non-throwing shoulder in a game nearly a month ago. Trubisky has practiced all week while wearing a shoulder harness, and all indications are that he will play although he could be limited physically himself.
That could end up playing a major factor in this game for the Bears, who are 0-4 in their games coming off of a Bye Week (as this game on Sunday will be) dating back to the 2014 NFL season.
With all of that in mind, here are Big Easy Magazine’s five bold predictions for this Sunday’s contest.
#5. THE SAINTS OFFENSE TRIES TO ESTABLISH THE RUNNING GAME WITH LATAVIUS MURRAY, BUT IS HELD IN CHECK BY THE BEARS LINEBACKERS
— Bayou Preps (@BayouPreps) October 15, 2019
With Kamara expected to be severely limited physically or ruled out altogether with minor ankle and knee injuries, head coach Sean Payton once again turns to Murray to shoulder the load in the running game. He ended up being a key contributor in the Black and Gold’s hard-fought 13-6 victory last week at Jacksonville over the Jaguars.
In that contest, Murray tallied 79 total yards from scrimmage and was the team’s most effective back in the running game. Perhaps most importantly, he gained 40 of his 44 rushing yards in the 2nd half, helping New Orleans control the game clock and time of possession down the stretch.
But this Sunday, Murray and all of the Saints RBs will have difficulty establishing the run, as Bears inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan are able to “bottle up” the Saints rushing attack, limiting the Black and Gold to 72 total yards on 22 carries — or a paltry 3.3 yards per carry.
#4. BEARS EDGE PASS RUSHER KHALIL MACK NOTCHES HIS FIRST-EVER SACK AGAINST THE SAINTS, BUT IS RENDERED INEFFECTIVE BY TOP-RATED SAINTS RIGHT GUARD RYAN
🏈 UPDATED DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR ODDS 🏈
Khalil Mack: +500
Shaquil Barrett: +600
Jamie Collins: +700
Aaron Donald: +1100
Myles Garrett: +1200
— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) October 15, 2019
The Saints have only faced off against Mack — generally regarded as the best edge pass rusher in the entire NFL — one other time, which was when they held him without a single sack when he was still playing for the Oakland Raiders, in the 2016 Season opening game at the Superdome (a game that the Saints eventually lost by a score of 35-34).
Mack has had a bit of a disappointing season thus far for Chicago, as he has only tallied 4.5 sacks, along with 13 tackles and 4 forced fumbles. That isn’t all that bad necessarily, but it is far below the expectations of long-time NFL observers and analysts as well as the lofty standards that he sets for himself.
In Sunday’s contest, Mack will notch his first-ever sack against the Saints off the left outside edge against offensive left guard Andrus Peat, but is essentially “shut out” when rushing off of his normal right outside edge spot by top-rated Saints offensive right guard Ryan Ramczyk.
#3. BOTH BEARS STARTING QB MITCH TRUBISKY AND BACK-UP QB CHASE DANIEL SEE ACTION, BUT THEY ARE PRESSURED RELENTLESSLY THROUGHOUT THE GAME BY THE SAINTS DEFENSIVE FRONT 7
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) October 17, 2019
Starting #1 Bears QB Mitch Trubisky has missed Chicago’s last few games with a dislocated left shoulder (in his non-throwing arm) and a slightly-torn labrum that he suffered in their Week #4 win over Minnesota. Trubisky has practiced all week, and as of now is expected to see action this Sunday but will be wearing a protective shoulder harness.
Nevertheless, there’s still a good chance that the Saints’ defense will still see Bears’ back-up QB (and former Saints back-up QB) Chase Daniel under center during this game at some point. Daniel led Chicago to a 16-6 win over the Vikings in the contest in which Trubisky was hurt, but struggled the following week over in London, England when Chicago got upset by the Oakland Raiders. In that game, Daniel threw two critical interceptions that ultimately led to their 24-21 defeat and 2nd loss of the season.
Regardless of who is under center for Chicago, the Saints’ defensive Front 7 continues their impressive showing that they’ve had throughout their current 4-game winning streak; as they relentlessly pressure both QB’s all game long, as they notch another 5 sacks along with countless QB “hits” and “pressures” that leaves the Chicago offense production far below their normal average.
#2. TEDDY BRIDGEWATER STRUGGLES WITH ACCURACY FOR A SECOND STRAIGHT GAME — BUT STILL MANAGES TO THROW A LATE TD PASS THAT KEEPS THE SAINTS IN IT AT THE END
Perspective on how the #Saints are continuing to win without Drew Brees:
— Karen Loftus (@kcloftus) October 16, 2019
Back-up Saints’ #2 QB Teddy Bridgewater once again get the start in absence of starting #1 QB and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, as he has unexpectedly led the Black and Gold to a perfect 4-0 record that’s allowed them to remain in 1st Place in the current NFC South Division standings.
While the 26-year old Bridgewater hasn’t always been “razor-sharp” at times, he still throws the football well enough to help the team’s offense remain just effective enough to continue winning games. As a result, Bridgewater has become a figurative spiritual leader for the team as well as the entire Saints franchise.
Unfortunately for the Saints’ passing game this Sunday, Bridgewater will struggle with his accuracy against the ferocious Bears defensive line, whose stated goal to the media coming into this contest is to make Bridgewater as uncomfortable in the pocket as much as they possibly can. But despite that, Bridgewater will throw a touchdown pass late in the 3rd Quarter that ultimately keeps the Saints in the game near the end of the 4th Quarter.
#1. IN WHAT TURNS OUT TO BE A “SLOBBER KNOCKER” OF A CONTEST, THE SCORE IS TIED AT 13-13 EARLY IN THE 4TH QUARTER WHEN…
Demario Davis a force on, off the field
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 16, 2019
Chicago gets the ball back following a 14-yard Bridgewater TD pass to WR Michael Thomas, that ties the score up at 13-13 apiece. The Bears then go on a methodical, 12-play drive that’s aided by the combined running and catching exploits of Bears #2 RB Tarik Cohen, who helps Chicago get the ball all the way down to the Saints 1 and a half yard line. But on a critical 3rd-down-and-goal play, Cohen attempts to dive over the top of the pile at the goal line, but is hit in mid-air by Saints linebacker Demario Davis — who strips Cohen of the ball and it’s recovered in the end zone by Saints strong safety Vonn Bell.
The Saints now have the ball at their own 25-yard line with less than six minutes remaining, and drive all the way down to the Bears 33-yard line, whey they are eventually forced to settle for a 50-yard Wil Lutz field goal and take a very slim 16-13 lead. Chicago gets the ball back yet again with another chance to either tie or win the game, but their drive also stalls at the Saints 29-yard line, where they end up settling for a 46-yard field goal by kicker Eddy Pineiro that once again ties up the score at 16-16 apiece, right before the two-minute warning.
Nervous Who Dats everywhere across the nation then begin to wonder: can the Saints pull out yet another win, against seemingly overwhelming odds?
The Saints then receive the ensuing kickoff, which returner Deonte Harris lets bounce out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, bringing the ball out to the 25-yard line. Bridgewater and company then “dink and dunk” their way down the field with a mix of running plays and short passes; that takes the ball down to the Bears 36-yard line with less than 30 seconds left to play. After a Bridgewater pass attempt falls incomplete on a 3rd-down-and-7 play, the Saints call their final time out with only 4 seconds remaining and send Lutz back out for what would be a game-winning 53-yard field goal.
Saints fans hold their collective breaths as the ball is snapped, and in typical Saints fashion Lutz’s kick BARELY clears the cross-bar of the goal post, as the referees signal that the kick is indeed good. Lutz is mobbed by his Saints teammates — as New Orleans leaves Chicago and the venerable Soldier Field in their rear-view mirror, with a hard-fought but yet thrilling 19-16 victory for their 5th straight win without Drew Brees.
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 19, BEARS 16
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius