Bears Battle Saints in Playoff Wild Card Match — on Nickelodeon

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 10, 2021

Today, the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears faced off in an NFL Wild Card Playoff game. The game will air live on CBS, with analysts Jim Nantz and Tony Romo. But for the first time ever, the game will be simulcast on Nickelodeon. CBS has partnered with the kid-centered network for the broadcast. According to CBS Sports, the Nickelodeon broadcast will feature original, on-field, Nick-themed and even slime-filled graphics.

The broadcast on Nickelodeon was anchored by NFL Network’s Nate Burleson and Clippers play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle. They were joined by a special guest: Gabrielle Neveah Green, who stars on Nickelodeon’s “All That”. Green, 15, co-stars on “All That” with actor Lex Lumpkin, who will provide sideline reporting.

“Our game plan is to make sure the NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon definitely lives up to its name by infusing the telecast with Nick’s sensibility of surprise and fun at almost every turn,” said Brian Robbins, President of ViacomCBS Kids & Family Entertainment. “We’re incredibly proud to team up with CBS Sports and the NFL to elevate the thrill of this game for kids and families to enjoy together.”

Broadcasts typically introduce players to fans; this time they’ll be introduced by favorite food and hobbies instead of college and season statistics. More than 15 players per team filled out questionnaires to ensure that was possible, CBS Sports coordinating producer Shawn Robbins told USA TODAY. Green says that can engage new viewers: “Football can be kind of confusing,” Green told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s kind of hard to remember all those terms but if we can say, ‘Hey that’s the guy who loves chocolate ice cream and he just ran all the way down the field,’ that’s a win for us to get new football fans engaged.”

Saints’ De’Onte Harris got off to a fast start with a first down. Then, after a neutral zone infraction by the Bears defense, running back Alvin Kamara barreled down the field for a first down. Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas caught a pass from quarterback Drew Brees for the touchdown! As Thomas crossed into the end zone, two animated “slime cannons” sprayed a fountain over the end zone, drawing praise from viewers:

The game was 7-0. The Bears took over. WR Javon Wims had an amazing sideline catch — but then dropped what could’ve been a game-tying touchdown. The Bears scored no points, but they soon got a turnover: backup QB Taysom Hill had the ball knocked out of his hands mid-pass. The Bears recovered and drove down the field. They were nearing a score before Bears tight end Cole Kmet was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Chicago did manage to score a field goal, making it 7-3.

Throughout the broadcast, the analysts described certain aspects of the game for the young viewers. They also answered quirky questions that children might ask. Green, 15, asked: “What happens if you have to go to the bathroom during a game?” Burleson and Eagle answered: you either hold it or go into one of the on-field tents — “kind of like a Port-a-Potty,” Burleson said. Burleson and Eagle also explained technical terms: “red zone” is the area from the 20-yard line to the end zone. If a team reaches that area, they have a good chance of scoring.

Burleson, Eagle, and Green worked admirably to make the game accessible young children. Unfortunately, one player seemed to have forgotten that kids were watching. Bears player Cordarrelle Patterson was caught on a hot mic, cursing after dual penalty flags were thrown by the ref. The moment was broadcast live for all the kids to hear:

In the second half, the Saints got a hard-fought scoring play. Tight end Jared Cook made a crucial catch on 3rd down, bringing the Saints near the red zone. The Saints were prepared to go for it on fourth down. On 4th and 2, the Bears were flagged for a neutral zone infraction (also known as “offsides”). As “Young Sheldon” explained, “offsides is when a defender jumps across the line of scrimmage and can’t get back in time”.

That explanation was rapidly followed by a touchdown. Under duress, Brees escaped Khalil Mack by throwing to RB Latavius Murray. After the catch, Murray raced into the end zone; the “slime cannons” formed another waterfall over the goal line. An extra-point kick made it 14-3, with 4:10 left in the third quarter.

Jordan Humphrey had a big play on 3rd and 11, driving the Saints to 1st and goal. On 2nd and goal, the Bears defense (#22) was flagged for holding. That penalty gave an automatic first down to the Saints. Taysom Hill rushed near the one-yard line, and Kamara ran in for the touchdown. New Orleans jumped ahead to a 21-3 lead.

After another scoreless drive for the Bears, the Saints took back over. Kamara had two big first-down plays, and another flag for offsides (on Chicago) made it 1st and goal for New Orleans. But the Saints came away scoreless after four stops by the Chicago defense. On 4th and goal, the Saints decided to go for it instead of kicking a field goal. Brees tried to dive across the goal line. But the ball didn’t cross the plane. That made it a turnover on downs, giving the Bears the ball.

The Bears scored a touchdown (finally!) when Trubisky found tight end Jimmy Graham. After an incredible one-handed grab in the end zone, Graham fell to the ground. He then got up and left the field, running straight to the locker room as the fourth quarter ended.

The Saints won, 21-9. It proved to be a fitting birthday present for Drew Brees. He turns 42 this week, and now he’s on his way to the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. (The Saints face Tampa Bay next Sunday.) Brees threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns, while Kamara ran for 99 yards and a TD.

Chiefs Best Saints for Ninth Straight Win

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 20, 2020

It got close late, but the Kansas City Chiefs got the win today in New Orleans. The Chiefs edged the New Orleans Saints to win today’s highly anticipated match, 32-29. It was the Chiefs’ ninth straight win. That gives them a record of 13-1 for the season — the best record in the NFL.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Saints won the opening coin toss and gave the Chiefs the first opportunity with the ball. “Patrick Mahomes and company came out with a good play to start the drive, getting a first down quickly. However, the Saints defense was able to counter and get off the field on a 3rd-and-5 after Mahomes couldn’t hit Tyreek Hill. Drew Brees officially returned to the field for New Orleans, but the team’s first drive resulted in a three-and-out after he couldn’t get Tre’Quan Smith for the conversion.”

The second Chiefs drive resulted in their own three-and-out. The Saints had an early interception on Mahomes, courtesy of Marcus Williams. But an illegal contact penalty by Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins wiped that out. Jenkins followed up by making a 5-yard tackle for loss on a Tyreek Hill catch. New Orleans would hold firm on the next plays, forcing a punt after a great pass breakup down field from C.J. Gardner-Johnson on Mecole Hardman.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees got picked off by L’Jarius Sneed, giving the Chiefs the ball. They cashed in a few plays later. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a big third-down conversion and then scrambled 13 yards to the Saints’ 11-yard line. Then he found wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a 5-yard touchdown, giving the Chiefs a 7-0 lead.

They would add to that lead later. After a three-and-out by the Saints, the Chiefs took over and scored again. Mahomes connected with Kelce for a touchdown early in the second quarter. That gave Kansas City a 14-0 lead as the quarter got underway. (Kelce’s 10 touchdowns this year tie a career high.) The Saints got the ball. QB Drew Brees found WR Emmanuel Sanders for a 51-yard completion. Three plays later, he connected with Taysom Hill for the touchdown. That TD capped a 7-play, 66-yard drive for New Orleans and put them on the board, 14-7.

With 10:21 left in the quarter, both teams embarked on unsuccessful drives. Both teams ended up having to punt. Andrus Peat got hurt on the Saints drive and limped his way to the locker room. After another unsuccessful drive, Chiefs punt returner Demarcus Robinson got stripped of the ball. It went out of the end zone, resulting in a safety. The score was 14-9 at the half.

In the third quarter, the Saints went 75 yards in 4 plays, per SI. They hit paydirt when Brees hooked up with running back Latavius Murray for a 24-yard scoop-and-score. That gave them the lead, 15-14. But a two-point conversion attempt was no good. So it remained a one-point game in the New Orleans Superdome…but not for long.

On their drive, Mahomes stunned viewers and announcers with a dramatic scoring play. He launched a narrow pass to receiver Mecole Hardman, who caught the ball, planted his foot, and then dragged the other to make the catch. At first it appeared that the catch and been out of bounds, but upon replay it was clear that Hardman — somehow — had made the catch. It put the Chiefs ahead 21-15.

There was a wild sequence in the fourth quarter. Saints defender Cameron Jordan tangled with #77 from the Chiefs and was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The referee later added that Jordan had thrown a punch, which connected. Jordan was disqualified from the game. On the very next play, Mahomes tossed the ball to running back Le’Veon Bell, who rushed in for the touchdown. Kelce surged into the end zone for a successful two-point conversion. That gave them a commanding 29-15 lead.

The Saints would score afterward, courtesy of RB Alvin Kamara. That made it 29-22. But the Chiefs tacked on a field goal (by Harrison Butker) to extend the lead. The Saints countered with another score of their own, but it was too late. The Chiefs won, 32-29.

This was a significant game on several fronts. This was the first meeting between quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees. It was Brees’ first game back in nearly a month — he suffered 11 fractured ribs and a punctured lung (!!!) in the last game he played. And his return was against a quarterback his own kids love.

Reporter Tracy Wolfson said that Brees’ three sons want Chiefs jerseys for Christmas — one boy wants a signed jersey from Mahomes, another a jersey from Hill, another from running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Speaking of Edwards-Helaire, he suffered what looked like a gruesome leg injury towards the end of the game. But it may not be as severe as it appeared: he reportedly has a high-ankle sprain and a strained hip. Edwards-Helaire may be rehabbed in time for next month’s divisional playoff game.

Update (Dec. 21, 2020): Both Mahomes and Kelce have been selected for this year’s Pro Bowl. They are among seven Chiefs to be voted into the game; the Packers and Seahawks also have seven players apiece. Kelce is also nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which honors players for excellence on the field and for their volunteer/charity work.

Saints Roll Over Buccaneers in Tampa Bay

Quarterback Tom Brady and Drew Brees embrace after tonight’s Sunday Night Football. (Photo by the author.)

By Terrance Turner

Everyone on tonight’s “Sunday Night Football” picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win tonight’s match against the New Orleans Saints. Six commentators – including Tony Dungy and Mike Tirico — picked the Buccaneers to win the game.

They were wrong.

The Saints scored almost right out the gate, with quarterback Drew Brees finding Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown. That put them up 7-0. Tampa Bay went three-and-out — an ominous sign of things to come. But the Saints had struggles, too. Deonte Harris had a big catch-and-run on their next drive, but a Saints player was tackled near the 10-yard line, and the Bucs defense caused a fumble. Tampa Bay recovered the ball, but did little with it. Once again, they went three-and-out.

Saints took over. From the 35-yard line, running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 17 yards. That later led to a 1st-and goal. Saints scored again: Brees threw to rookie tight end Adam Trautman for the touchdown. It’s Trautman’s first NFL touchdown. His inaugural score made it 14-0.

Later, Taysom Hill hurdled over defenders for a big play that took the Saints near the 10-yard line. Then Brees hurled a pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for the touchdown. With the game 21-0, Bucs got the ball back. Things seemed to be progressing until Brady was intercepted AGAIN, this time by Saints #97. On the Saints drive, Hill gain flew down the field to make it 1st and goal. Alvin Kamara ran in for the score. Touchdown Saints!

It was a disastrous series for Tampa Bay: punt, punt, punt, another punt, and then an interception. The Buccaneers were able to foil the Saints’ drive, but then kicker Wil Lutz added to the Bucs’ misery with a field goal. The first half ended with the Saints up 31-0.

In the second half, both teams struggled on offense. The Bucs got as far as 1st and goal, but after four attempts to score, they couldn’t convert. On their drive, Brees fumbled the ball and gave it to Tampa Bay. But Brady got intercepted again, this time by Saints defender Malcolm Jenkins. With 9:07 left in the quarter, Brees threw to Josh Hill for the touchdown. An extra point made it 38-0.

The Buccaneers took over. With 7:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, Brady got under pressure and just heaved the ball in the air. He was flagged for intentional grounding. Then he was sacked by the Saints defense. On 3rd and 34, the pass was incomplete. on fourth down, the Bucs finally scored some points. Kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to make it 38-3. And that’s how it ended.

The Saints win, 38-3.