Chicago Bears: 5 Players critical to defeating Saints in Wild Card Round

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Chicago Bears

Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears snuck into the NFL Playoffs but which players will be crucial to now beating the Saints?

Well, the longest season in NFL history is finally over. The Chicago Bears had three seasons in one — they raced out to a 5-1 start, then stumbled during a six-game losing streak, but then came back and won three of their last four games to get into the playoffs.

Saying the Bears are in the playoffs wasn’t something many people expected to say a month ago. The offense struggled to just get a handful of first downs, let alone a handful of points. However, the players and coaches turned things around and gave themselves a final chance to get in and it worked out for them.

Now, Chicago gets to face the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round. They are familiar with the Saints, having played them in Week 8. This was the Bears’ second loss in their six-game streak. It was a close game, though, as the Saints won 26-23 in overtime.

The Bears raced out to a 13-3 lead late in the first half. The Saints went 55 yards on nine plays in just 1:36 that gave them momentum going into halftime. New Orleans then scored 13 more points to take a 23-13 lead in the fourth quarter.

However, the Bears rallied with Nick Foles and somehow scored 10 points in the final 10 minutes to send the game into overtime, where kicker Will Lutz gave the Saints the victory with a 35-yard field goal.

That game was in Chicago and this one will be played indoors at the Superdome. The Bears’ offensive lineup is better now and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is calling plays now. Saints running back Alvin Kamara missed last week due to COVID so let’s see how he plays. On the other hand, Michael Thomas didn’t play in the first game. Can Chicago come up with an upset?

Here are five players who need to step up for the Chicago Bears to shock the NFL world.

Chicago Bears key player No. 5: Cairo Santos, K

Okay, I understand how coming out of a game against the Green Bay Packers in which the Chicago Bears only got field goals while Green Bay got touchdowns one would think “Why would the kicker be a factor” in a game where touchdowns are key. However, Cairo Santos can keep the Bears close throughout the game and could help the fans get over the “Double doink.”

After years of kicking struggles after dropping Robbie Gould after the 2015 season, they finally found their guy in 2020, of all years. Santos hit 26 straight field-goal attempts, eclipsing Gould’s franchise record for consecutive successful attempts.

In do-or-die games against the Minnesota Vikings and the Packers, Santos hit seven field goals (four against the Vikings, three against the Packers). Additionally, he kept the Bears close in the first game against the Saints by hitting three big field goals, including one from 51 yards with 18 seconds left that sent the game into overtime.

Santos could be counted on again in the playoffs. I know, that sounds terrifying given Cody Parkey’s failure two years ago. Santos is riding high at the moment and has the ability to make people forget that.

The game plan that the coaches had for the Packers was a good one. They tried to keep Aaron Rodgers on the bench and not on the field. The Bears outgained the Packers and held onto the ball for 11 minutes more than Green Bay. The problem was that the Bears defense couldn’t stop Rodgers from completing big plays or couldn’t take advantage of the interception opportunities that came their way.

If Chicago can do the same thing against the Saints and the defense holds up better, then the Bears have a shot in this game. If the game comes down to a kick, Santos has the confidence and the leg to get it done.

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