Robbie Gould landed two critical field goals to give Chicago a 27-24 overtime win over New Orleans on Thursday, boosting the Bears’ playoff hopes while dealing a significant blow to the Saints’ dwindling postseason ambitions.
Gould kicked the tying field goal at the end of regulation and booted the winner from 35 yards in overtime. The win moved Chicago half a game behind NFC North leader Minnesota, although the Vikings hold the tiebreaker. The Bears (8-6) are also half a game off a wild-card spot.
After leaving Chicago with season-ending losses the past two years, the Saints looked as if they were ready to end that trend.
Instead, they fell to 7-7 and can forget about catching NFC South leader Carolina, leaving their playoff hopes resting on a wild card spot.
Drew Brees hit Marques Colston for an 11-yard touchdown pass with just over 3 minutes left in regulation to give New Orleans its first lead at 24-21, but Gould’s 28-yard field goal sent the game to overtime.
The Bears won the coin toss, and got another big break when the Saints’ Roman Harper bumped Devin Hester on a deep pass down the middle to set Chicago up at the 15. After Kyle Orton stumbled back and put the ball in the middle of the field, Gould ended it with a 35-yarder.
The Bears still need plenty of help to reach the postseason.
“Bottom line for us, we’re still in the hunt,” Chicago’s Lance Briggs said.
Brees, challenging Dan Marino’s single-season yards passing record, was 24-of-43 for 232 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
He looked more like himself late in the game after a miserable first half. Harassed by the defense, Brees was just 10-of-24 with 93 yards and a 49.5 rating in the first two quarters as Chicago grabbed a 21-7 lead.
Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown and set up another one with a 52-yarder early in the second as the Bears grabbed a 14-7 lead. Kyle Orton’s 6-yard scramble in the closing minute of the half made it a 14-point game.
With their second straight win and third in four games, the Bears finally appear to be hitting their stride after a convincing 23-10 win over Jacksonville last Sunday. They’ll try to make it three in a row — something they haven’t done since the 2006 Super Bowl season — at Green Bay a week from Monday.
The Saints got a boost before the game when a judge in Minnesota extended his injunction against the suspensions of Will Smith, Deuce McAllister and Charles Grant along with the Vikings’ Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for violating the NFL’s anti-doping policy.
Smith started at defensive end. McAllister was inactive and Grant (torn triceps) is on injured reserve.
But in the end, the Saints got more bad news in Chicago — a place where they’ve experienced their share of frustration in recent years.
Last season, the Bears were already out of playoff contention when they beat New Orleans 33-25 in the final game, wiping out any chance the Saints had at the postseason.
Two years ago, the Bears scored the first 16 points and ran away with a 39-14 win after the Saints pulled within two, thanks to an assist from Reggie Bush.
He pointed at Brian Urlacher and performed a celebratory flip as he crossed the goal line with an 88-yard touchdown catch, waking up Chicago’s defense.
Bush, who sat out of last year’s game because of an injury, was a non-factor this time.