Final

Saints 25

(7-9, 4-4 away)

Bears 33

(7-9, 4-4 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 30, 2007

Soldier Field, Chicago, IL 

1 2 3 4 T
NO 0 17 0 825
CHI 10 14 7 233

Top Performers

Passing: D. Brees (NO) - 320 YDS, 3 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: P. Thomas (NO) - 20 CAR, 105 YDS

Receiving: P. Thomas (NO) - 12 REC, 121 YDS, 1 TD

Hester's two touchdowns doom Saints, who won't return to playoffs

CHICAGO (AP) -- Hoping to win, hop on a plane and get good news when they arrived back in New Orleans, the Saints instead headed home Sunday knowing their season was over.

Kick returner extraordinaire Devin Hester raced for a pair of TDs -- one on a 64-yard punt return, another on a 55-yard pass -- and the Chicago Bears beat the Saints 33-25, erasing New Orleans' slim chances for the playoffs.

Hester Does It Again
Devin Hester
Devin Hester, who broke his own record for kick return touchdowns in a season with six, moved within two scores of the top spot on the all-time list for combined kick and punt touchdowns.
Player
Total
Punt return
Kickoff return
Brian Mitchell1394
Dante Hall1266
Eric Metcalf12102
Devin Hester1174

Eleven months ago the Saints' season ended in the NFC Championship game with a 39-14 loss at Soldier Field that sent the Bears to the Super Bowl.

Now New Orleans was left to digest another loss on the same field -- this time without making the postseason.

"They feel about the same," said Drew Brees, who set an NFL record for completions in a single season -- he finished with 443 -- while attempting 60 passes Sunday. "If we had won this game we still might have had an opportunity for the playoffs."

Saints coach Sean Payton didn't see the similarities between the two disheartening losses.

"It is different. Different teams, different circumstances -- an NFC Championship Game and 7-9," he said. "It's an irony that the season ended here."

New Orleans needed to beat the Bears and have both the Redskins and Vikings lose Sunday in later games. Minnesota lost to Denver in overtime, but Washington routed Dallas to make the postseason.

Now the two teams that were atop the NFC last season are both out in the cold.

Chicago (7-9), which lost the Super Bowl to the Colts, was eliminated from the postseason picture two weeks ago. The Bears won their final two games, their only two-game winning streak all year.

"Coming off the season we had last year, we were hoping for better things. But at the end of the day, we left off with a good note," Hester said.

"Look at way we're playing right now. We should have been doing that all season. It's tough. But things happen."

Hester now has four punt return touchdowns and two on kickoffs this season. Last year he had five total, three on punts and two on kickoffs -- not counting one to start the Super Bowl.

After the Saints (7-9) went three-and-out on the first series of the second half, Steve Weatherford punted to Hester -- a mistake. He went right and then quickly cut back left, found a seam and easily outraced would-be tacklers to put the Bears ahead 31-17.

"The punt plan was out of bounds. Period," Payton said.

Brees and Marques Colston hooked up for two first-half touchdown passes. And Brees eclipsed the previous mark of 418 completions set by Rich Gannon in 2002, needing just 11 entering the game.

Start of Something Big?
Marques Colston
Saints receiver Marques Colston, who did not play the second half against the Bears due to injury, did enough damage in the first half with eight catches to finish with the most receptions by any player in their first two seasons.
Player
Seasons
Catches
Marques Colston2006-07168
Reggie Bush2006-07161
Larry Fitzgerald2004-05161
Anquan Boldin2003-04157
Wayne Chrebet1995-96150

But Colston, who took several hard shots, hurt his left wrist when he hit it on a helmet and it swelled up so badly he couldn't move it. He spent the second half on the sidelines, taking away the Saints' chief threat. Running back Reggie Bush was out with a knee injury, and wide receiver Terrance Copper got a concussion Sunday.

"We came into the game with five receivers and by the time we got into the last couple of drives, we had only three," Brees said. "It was one of those deals where we were just trying to survive at that point."

Brees was 35-of-60 for 320 yards with three TDs.

Undrafted rookie free agent Pierre Thomas, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and played his college ball at Illinois, gave the Saints a big lift, gaining 105 yards rushing and catching 12 passes for 121 yards.

Hester hauled in Orton's long pass and split two defenders for the 55-yard score with 1:48 to go in the first half -- 19 seconds after Brees threw his second TD pass of the game to Colston.

Colston made eight receptions in the first half and broke Joe Horn's club record of 94 catches in a season, finishing with 98.

Brees found Colston wide open at the 14, and he ran it in for a 21-yard TD that made it 17-14 with 2:07 left in the half.

Adrian Peterson's 9-yard halfback option pass to Bernard Berrian for a TD gave the Bears a 17-7 lead.

Brees tied the NFL record with his 10th completion, lofting a third-down pass to the end zone that Colston went up and grabbed for a 3-yard TD with 8:35 left in the half. The score cut the Bears lead to 10-7.

Brian Urlacher intercepted Brees' second attempt of the game. The Bears had the ball at the Saints 21 before settling for Robbie Gould's 39-yard field goal.

Chicago Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs, playing in perhaps his final game for the Bears, made a vicious hit on Colston as he tried to catch a third-down pass on the next series. A minor skirmish ensued near the Bears bench.

But Chicago then got the ball on a punt and Orton drove the Bears 71 yards, zipping a 19-yard TD pass to Mark Bradley.

Game notes


Orton, hoping to have a shot at the No. 1 spot next season after starting the final three games this year, was 12-for-27 for 190 yards with two TDs and an interception. ... Two unnecessary roughness penalties on the Saints aided two Bears' scoring drives in the first half.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NO
CHI
1st Downs2813
Passing 1st downs
187
Rushing 1st downs
84
1st downs from penalties
22
3rd down efficiency
3-146-14
4th down efficiency
1-40-1
Total Plays8357
Total Yards413275
Yards per play5.04.8
Total Drives1516
Passing308179
Comp-Att
35-6013-28
Yards per pass
4.96.0
Interceptions thrown
21
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-122-20
Rushing10596
Rushing Attempts
2027
Yards per rush
5.33.6
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-22-2
Penalties8-725-34
Turnovers33
Fumbles lost
12
Interceptions thrown
21
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01
Possession35:0824:52

Passing Leaders

NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees35/603205.3323-12
CHIC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Orton12/271907.0211-5
Peterson1/199.0100-0

Rushing Leaders

NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Thomas201055.3013
CHICARYDSAVGTDLG
Peterson21914.3020
Wolfe471.8010

Receiving Leaders

NORECYDSAVGTDLG
Thomas1212110.1117
Colston89411.8221
CHIRECYDSAVGTDLG
Hester26532.5155
Wolfe13232.0032

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNOCHI
chiFG12:05Robbie Gould 39 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 0 yds, 0:54
03
chiTD6:32Mark Bradley, 19 yd pass from Kyle Orton (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 71 yds, 4:08
010
SECOND QUARTERNOCHI
noTD8:40Marques Colston, 3 yd pass from Drew Brees (Martin Gramatica kick is good)
Drive info: 14 plays, 67 yds, 6:25
710
chiTD5:51Bernard Berrian, 9 yd pass from Adrian Peterson (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 63 yds, 2:50
717
noTD2:16Marques Colston, 21 yd pass from Drew Brees (Martin Gramatica kick is good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 69 yds, 3:38
1417
chiTD1:57Devin Hester, 55 yd pass from Kyle Orton (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 63 yds, 0:19
1424
noFG0:02Martin Gramatica 48 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 3 plays, 6 yds, 0:24
1724
THIRD QUARTERNOCHI
chiTD12:49Devin Hester, 64 yd punt return (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 64 yds, 0:00
1731
FOURTH QUARTERNOCHI
chiSF5:20Offensive Holding. Jahri Evans.
Drive info: 2 plays, 11 yds, 0:05
1733
noTD0:13Pierre Thomas, 11 yd pass from Drew Brees(Pierre Thomas run for 2pt conversion)
Drive info: 9 plays, 87 yds, 2:39
2533