Neal Anderson will settle for being a double threat. The way he throws the ball, he might have to.
Anderson accounted for 164 yards running, catching and passing as the Chicago Bears beat the New Orleans Saints 16-6 Sunday. The victory, helped greatly by an offsides penalty on a blocked field goal that negated a touchdown by New Orleans, sent the Bears on to face the New York Giants in the second round of the NFL playoffs.Anderson rushed for 102 yards on 27 carries, threw a 22-yard completion that set up one of Kevin Butler's three short field goals, and caught four passes for 42 yards. Mike Tomczak added an 18-yard touchdown pass to James Thornton.
Anderson wasn't aware he had tied Walter Payton's team record of 27 carries in a playoff game.
"It felt more like 17," he said. "It's the playoffs, you lay it all on the line. I love it when I know the ball is coming to me to make things happen."
He also made things happen with perhaps the ugliest pass Chicago has seen since Jim McMahon was mailing floaters.
"It was a lame duck and (Ron) Morris made a great catch," Anderson said of his option pass. He was hit by Rickey Jackson and it wobbled tantalizingly to Morris at the Saints' 8. "It was a serious duck, it looked so sick most people would have shot it."
Instead, it led to the first of Butler's three field goals, from 19 yards to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.
The Bears got a lot of help from Robert Massey, who lined up offsides on Butler's field-goal attempt in the third quarter, with Chicago ahead 10-3.
The kick was blocked by Renaldo Turnbull and returned 61 yards by Vince Buck for a touchdown. But the offsides call nullified the play and Butler went on to kick a 22-yarder for a 13-3 lead, meaning that the offsides accounted for a 10-point swing.
"A flag was thrown, so it's beside the point," Bears coach Mike Ditka said.
"It didn't happen," Tomczak added.
"When it's that close, they shouldn't call it," Saints coach Jim Mora said. "It didn't look like he was offsides. I didn't see anything that looked wrong."
He saw plenty wrong with the Saints' lack of offense - 193 yards, just 65 on the ground. And he saw too much of Anderson.
"They ran the hell out of the ball," linebacker Vaughan Johnson said. "They ran it good."
The win sends Chicago, 11-5 and the NFC Central champion, to New Jersey next Sunday to meet the Giants in one of the two NFC semifinals. Washington, which beat Philadelphia in Saturday's wild-card game, will be at San Francisco on Saturday.
New Orleans, meanwhile, continues without a playoff victory in its 24-year history - it lost 44-10 to Minnesota in 1987 in its only other playoff appearance. In fact, the Saints, who at 8-8 made the playoffs as the sixth NFC team in this year's expanded format, finish under .500 at 8-9 for the season.
This was hardly an offensive duel, although Tomczak - just 5-for-23 for 85 yards in a loss to Kansas City, was as effective as he had to be for Chicago, finishing 12 of 25 for 166 yards.
The emphasis, of course, was not on the quarterback but on the versatile running back.
"I wanted to give him ball and stay mistake-free,' Ditka said. "If I had to give him the ball 40 times, I would. We got here with the ball in Neal's hands and we had to give it to him."
New Orleans' Steve Walsh was 6-for-16 for 74 yards before leaving late in the first half with a sprained right shoulder. He was relieved by John Fourcade, who was 5-for-18 for 79 yards.
"There were passes dropped," Fourcade said. "That's football. Things simply didn't go our way."
The Bears defense held the Saints without a rushing first down until midway through the fourth quarter; that came on a 4-yard scramble by Fourcade. Trace Armstrong, who also blocked one of Morten Andersen's field goal tries, sacked Fourcade for a 16-yard loss after the Saints had reached the Chicago 2 with two minutes left.
Chicago scored 4:54 into the game after John Mangum picked off Walsh's pass that deflected off the hands of New Orleans' Lonzell Hill. Mangum returned it to the Saints' 33. Mangum also deflected a 35-yard pass to Hill in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Late in the quarter, the Bears' got off their only sustained drive, which culminated 1:52 into the second period with Tomczak's TD pass to Thornton, who caught the pass in the right flat and raced untouched to the end zone. The key play was a 31-yard slant pass from Tomczak to Anderson on third-and-6 from the Chicago 42.
The nullified blocked field goal came on Chicago's first series of the second half.
Then Fourcade hit Greg Scales to put the Saints in field goal position. But Armstrong blocked Andersen's 42-yard attempt. Armstrong came up with the sack after the drive to the 2, aided by 17- and 15-yard pass interference calls on Mark Carrier. That forced the Saints to settle for a 38-yard field goal.
Butler added a 21-yard field goal with 2:47 left.