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Chalk Talk

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Chalk Talk: Will Saints have fans at wild card game?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

Are the Saints able to allow fans into their stadium, and if they don't, how much of an advantage will that be for the Bears on Sunday?
Ross K.
Elmhurst, Illinois

COVID-19 restrictions are expected to keep the Saints from having no more than 3,000 fans in attendance for Sunday's Super Wild Card game against the Bears. That no doubt will make the cavernous 73,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Superdome seem like it's empty. So that's a big break for the Bears. Here's what coach Matt Nagy said Thursday about playing the Saints with only a small number of fans present: "I've been to pretty much every stadium in the NFL, and when you talk about the advantage that they have being inside, it gets really, really loud. So when you're an opponent and you're on offense, that's where you get a disadvantage because they can be so loud and it's hard to communicate. But that's nowhere right now across the league. It is certainly a different year. It takes that home-field advantage away, what it would normally be for any of these home teams. So I think it's probably for most teams, it's going to be what it's been all year long, which is not many people in these stands, or at least not enough to affect your game-planning."

I was a little confused about what happened on the opening kickoff against the Packers when Cordarrelle Patterson tried to field the ball while he was going out of bounds. Can you please explain what occurred and why the Packers challenged the initial ruling?
Jeff B.
Owasso, Oklahoma

As I'm sure you know, the team receiving a kickoff that goes out of bounds is awarded the ball at its own 40. The kickoff is ruled to be out of bounds if the ball contacts a player who is out of bounds. So if a return specialist fields the ball with any part of his body out of bounds, the kickoff is ruled out of bounds even if the ball technically never left the field of play. It's actually a very smart play for a returner to make. The issue against the Packers was whether Cordarrelle Patterson, who appeared to slip as he reached down for the ball, had gone out of bounds before touching the ball. That's what the officials ruled after a brief discussion, but the Packers didn't agree, and that's why they challenged the call. (Can't say I've ever seen a challenge on the opening kickoff of a game before.) After a replay review, the call on the field was upheld, and the Bears followed by marching 60 yards to take a 7-0 lead on David Montgomery's 2-yard touchdown run. When viewing the replay of the kickoff, I thought it was as close as it possibly could get, so the Bears were fortunate. What Patterson did is a rare play, but it's actually the second time it's happened this season. Ryan Nall did it successfully on a kickoff in a Week 3 win in Atlanta.

I saw that Saints running back Alvin Kamara is still on the COVID-19 list. Is he expected to play against the Bears? That would be a huge blow to the Saints if he can't play.
Warren D.
Walnut Creek, California

Having tested positive for COVID-19 last week, Alvin Kamara was required to remain on the reserve/COVID list for 10 days. He's eligible to be removed from that list and return to the active roster Sunday, which would enable him to play against the Bears. It's my understanding that the Saints do expect him to play in the Super Wild Card contest and are keeping him involved in their game-plan preparation this week on a virtual basis. Kamara can be activated Sunday as long as he remains asymptomatic and is medically cleared to play.

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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