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Saints erase 20-point deficit to go 3-0

9/22/2002

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints wouldn't go away,
even when it appeared they would be blown out. That's why they're
still unbeaten.

Question on the Bears: Did the Bears get too conservative in the second half?
No, the Bears played their game. They're basically a ball-controlled offense, with a defense that thrives on take-aways and big plays. Unfortunately, they weren't able to capitalize on some opportunities against the Saints. They generally don't like to be in a situation where Jim Miller is forced to throw at the end of the game. The Bears want to control the clock, but their running game just didn't allow them to do that today.

Question on the Saints: Have the Saints now established themselves as a legitimate contender in the NFC?

Yes, New Orleans is the No. 1 team in the NFC right now. Not based on the preseason, but during the regular season, when games won and lost actually count. The players are doing the job and QB Aaron Brooks is playing outstanding.

Eric Allen played 14 seasons in the NFL for the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"You never want to put yourself in that kind of a hole, but
with the way we can score, we don't think we're out of it,''
quarterback Aaron Brooks said after the Saints rallied from a 20-0
deficit to beat the Chicago Bears 29-23 Sunday.

"It's tough when you're down 20-0, especially in the NFL,''
Brooks said. "We were lucky we didn't get blown out. We could have
been down 28-0 at the half.''

Instead, the Saints (3-0) got back in the game by scoring two
touchdowns in a 58-second span in the second quarter and pulled it
out when Donte' Stallworth made a great move to score on a 29-yard
pass from Brooks with 1:11 left in the game.

Sammy Knight then stopped a last-second Bears drive by
intercepting a pass by Jim Miller at the goal line, turning away
Chicago (2-1), which had won its 12 previous games decided by a
touchdown or less.

"It shouldn't have come down to the way it did,'' Miller said.

"The play didn't develop. If you let it develop any longer the
clock runs out, so either I've got to throw it out of the end zone
or throw it quick.''

On the winning drive, Brooks had a 14-yard scramble and threw an
11-yard pass to Joe Horn to get to the Bears 31. On second down,
Stallworth caught the pass near the sideline, got around defensive
back Reggie Austin and coasted into the end zone to make it 27-23.
Brooks then ran in for two points.

"They left me 1-one-1 on the corner and I got past him and then
I wasn't stopping. I kind of knew he was going to miss his tackle
because he jumped way outside,'' Stallworth said.

"He was my man. He ran an out route and I missed the tackle,''
said Austin, who had an interception in his first career start. "I
have to make that tackle. Nine times out of 10, I make that play.''

The Bears drove to the Saints 18 when Miller hit a 19-yard pass
to Marty Booker and, after using his final timeout, an 18-yarder to
Dez White. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Miller threw
into a crowd at the front of the end zone and Knight intercepted
with 2 seconds remaining.

Trailing 20-0 after a host of mistakes, the Saints quickly
regrouped with the two TDs, the second coming after Chicago's Leon Johnson fumbled a kickoff.

"We came in at halftime down 20-14 and the guys knew we were
going to win the game,'' New Orleans coach Jim Haslett said.

The Saints finally took the lead with an 84-yard drive opening
the second half. Brooks threw a 24-yard pass to Jerome Pathon and
capped the march with a 5-yard pass to Horn.

Paul Edinger's third field goal, a 25-yarder with 8:47 left,
gave Chicago a 23-21 lead before Brooks led the Saints on the
seven-play, 73-yard drive.

The Bears scored on four straight first-half possessions -- three
times after New Orleans turnovers.

Two fumbles recoveries by rookie Bryan Knight led to field goals
of 32 and 25 yards by Edinger. Knight's second recovery came after
Brooks raised his hand as the ball was snapped before he was ready.
It gave the Bears the ball at the New Orleans 13, but they had to
settle for a field goal.

"We held them to a field goal a few times, which is what you
got to do,'' Knight said.

Miller had a 10-yard scoring pass to White and a 22-yarder to
Booker that put the Bears up 17-0.

Finally, New Orleans got moving.

Brooks and Deuce McAllister hooked up on 30-yard pass to start
an eight-play, 84-yard drive capped by Brooks' 16-yard toss to
Pathon.

On the ensuing kickoff, Johnson, bothered by the sun, fumbled
and Jerry Wilson recovered at the Bears 8. Two plays later, a
scrambling Brooks hurdled into the end zone for a 7-yard TD, and
suddenly the big lead was reduced to 20-14.

Game notes
Chicago's James "Big Cat" Williams, who practiced
sparingly all week because of a sore hip, started his 121st
straight game at right tackle. ... Brooks finished 22-of-34 for 233
yards and rushed for 28 yards. Miller was 26-of-40 for 236. Booker
had another big day with eight catches for 97 yards. ... Saints LB
James Allen sprained a knee ligament. Bears DB Bobby Gray
dislocated his right wrist and TE Fred Baxter sprained his left
ankle. ... Bears RB Anthony Thomas had his first 100-yard rushing
day of the season with 111 on 27 carries. ... There were 4,813
no-shows on a gorgeous 68-degree day.

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