Bears blow big lead

With a 20-point lead early in the second quarter the Bears were poised to go 3-0 on the season. However, New Orleans outscored Chicago 29-3 the rest of the way as the Saints won 29-23.

The Bears could only manage a field goal in the second half as the Saints took control of the game. Aaron Brooks completed all four of his pass attempts on the final drive of the game including a 29-yard touchdown catch by rookie Donte Stallworth. The play should have only been for a minimal gain, but Reggie Austin missed a tackle allowing the receiver to go untouched into the endzone putting New Orleans up 27-23. A two-point conversion by Brooks gave the Saints a six-point lead with 1:11 left on the clock.

Chicago's offense took the ball with two timeouts and moved the ball into New Orleans territory with a 19-yard catch by Marty Booker taking a timeout with 31 seconds left. Then a 20-yard catch by Dez White put Chicago on the Saints 18 with ten seconds left on the clock. However, a Jim Miller interception on the following play ended the game.

Miller threw into quadruple coverage on what appeared to be a miscommunication between the QB and White that ended with Sammy Knight picking the ball off.

"We had to rush to call then play and try to make something happen, but it didn't work out for us," White said of the interception.

Everything was going the Bears way early as the defense forced three turnovers, which the offense converted into 13 points. Following sluggish starts in Week One and Two the Bears came out and dominated the Saints early into the second quarter.

The offense got a jumpstart when Mike Brown stripped Deuce McAllister of the ball and Bryan Knight recovered at the Bears 48.

A ten-play drive resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Paul Edinger put the Bears up 3-0 less midway through the first quarter.

The Saints struggled to hang on to the ball as Aaron Brooks errant pass was picked off by Reggie Austin, who had his first two career interceptions in his first start.

Again the Bears took over on their own 48, but this time were able to capitalize on good field position. The ground game carried the unit deep into New Orleans territory before Jim Miller connected with Dez White for a 10-yard touchdown and a ten-point lead.

Following a Saints three and out the Bears took the ball back with all the momentum. A 20-yard reception by Marty Booker moved Chicago down to the Saints 40. Four plays later the duo hooked up for a 22-yard touchdown putting the Bears up 17-0 early in the second quarter.

The Bears tacked on another field goal when Brooks couldn't handle the snap from center and Knight came up with his second fumble recovery of the game. Despite starting at the Saints 13 the Bears had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Edinger giving Chicago a 20-point lead.

From there, things took a turn for the worse.

Brooks hit seven straight passes on the following drive putting the on the board with a 16-yard touchdown to Jerome Pathon.

On the ensuing kickoff Leon Johnson had the ball hit him in the facemask and the ball bounced toward the sideline. The Saints came up with the ball on the Bears 7-yard line.

Granted the sun in Champaign may have been in Johnson's eyes, but that wasn't an excuse.

"You can't do anything about the sun you have to play in it," said head coach Dick Jauron. "Leon has to catch the ball."

Brooks cut the Bears lead to 20-14, as he leapt into the endzone on a seven-yard touchdown run.

Chicago had a chance to extend their lead just before the half, but a 58-yard field goal by Edinger hit the right upright as time expired in the half.

The Saints took the lead on the first possession after intermission. Brooks hit Joe Horn for a five-yard touchdown reception capping a 12-play 65-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes.

The teams traded punts into the fourth quarter.

Two penalties on the Saints defense including a 19-yard pass interference penalty on CB Ken Irvin helped the Bears take the lead back. A 12-yard catch by tight end John Davis, who had 4 catches for 32 yards on the day, moved the offense into field goal range. The Bears couldn't punch it in and had to settle for Edinger's third field goal of the game, which gave the Bears a 23-21 lead with 8:42 left in the game.

The Bears defense forced the Saints into a three and out on the following possession and gave the offense a chance to run out the clock. Offensive coordinator John Shoop called a screen pass to Booker on third down and two, but the play went for no gain. It seemed like a peculiar call considering the Bears had been able to move the ball on the ground throughout the game.

Anthony Thomas had 27 carries for 111 yards, but didn't get the ball on the most important play of the game.

"That is the game, if you can convert on third and two (you don't deserve to win), I don't know what would have happened (if we had gotten a first down)."

The Bears were forced to punt and the Saints took the ball trailing by two with 3:12 remaining.

New Orleans moved into Bears territory with a 14-yard scramble by Brooks, which brought the game to the two-minute warning. The Saints moved within placekicker John Carney's field goal range with a 10-yard catch by Horn. It looked like the game would come down to a field goal, but a missed tackle by Austin allowed Donte Stallworth to put the Saints up for good.

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