Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
The gritty, serendipitous New Orleans Saints were both Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, outlasting the pesky Chicago Bears 20-12 to maintain sole possession of first place in the NFC South.
The Saints extended their winning streak to five games after season-opening losses at Minnesota and against New England, matching their longest victory skien since the start of the 2013 season.
The Black and Gold sealed the deal when — and only when — rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore picked off an errant pass thrown by Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky at the Saints 27 with 1:11 remaining.
Lattimore’s theft ended the Bears’ last gasp to steal a victory on the road and kept the Saints 1/2 game ahead of Carolina (5-3) and a full game up on Atlanta (4-3) in the ultra competitive division race.
Despite leading from wire to wire, the Saints were pushed to the brink thanks in part to two fourth-quarter fumbles by running back Mark Ingram, one of which led to a Bears touchdown and the second of which spooked the decked-out sellout crowd two days before Halloween.
Saints coach Sean Payton expressed his displeasure with Ingram on the sideline after the second miscue with 2:12 remaining at the Bears’ 26-yard line. After Lattimore’s game-preserving INT, Payton sat Ingram and inserted running back Alvin Kamara to run out the clock.
Afterward, Ingram, who rushed for a team-high 75 yards and one touchdown, acknowledged that he “sucked’’ and was “terrible’’ and vowed to atone for his mistakes.
“Those two turnovers in the scoring zone made it closer than it needed to be,’’ Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “But we got some big (defensive) stops down ther stretch.
“(Ingram) will bounce back. He’s the heart of soul of this team. He’ll bounce back. I know he will.’’
The Saints should consider themselves extremely fortuitous based upon the way the ball bounced Sunday and the way several debatable calls by officials seemed to go their way.
▪ In the first quarter, a fourth-down neutral zone penalty against the Bears enabled the Saints to pull a 32-yard field goal by Wil Lutz off the scoreboard and continue a drive that resulted in Kamara’s 8-yard touchdown run.
▪ In the third quarter, replay official Charles Stewart reversed a 25-yard touchdown catch by Bears tight end Zach Miller, saying Miller apparently did not complete the catch in the end zone as he went to clutch his injured left leg.
Bears kicker Connor Barth did convert a 44-yard field goal attempt on the next play, trimming the Saints lead to 14-6 but a TD and PAT would have made the score 14-10.
▪ Lutz extended the Saints lead to 17-6 with 12:59 remaining, clanking a 45-yard field goal attempt off the left upright and through the goal posts.
And now the Saints will turn their attention to next Sunday’s home game against the free-falling Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5), who have lost four consecutive games and five of their last six.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys playing,’’ Payton said. “But you can can see their growth and confidence it right in front of your eyes. Hopefully, they’ll continue that.’’