2021 NFC Wild Card game (Chicago–New Orleans)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the site of the game
|Date||January 10, 2021|
|Stadium||Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Favorite||Saints by 11|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, and Jay Feely (CBS)|
Noah Eagle, Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, and Lex Lumpkin (Nick)
Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer (Prime Video)
On January 10, 2021, the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints played an NFC Wild Card playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game was won by the Saints, as they beat the Bears 21–9, to advance to the NFC Divisional round and face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers., only to lose 20-30.
While being primarily broadcast on CBS, this game is notable for being simulcast on Nickelodeon, marking the first ever National Football League (NFL) game televised on the network, in an attempt to introduce the game to a younger audience. The alternate telecast itself received positive reviews, with critics praising its "fun", looser feel in comparison to a traditional telecast.
Although the Bears finished with an 8-8 record, they managed to make the playoffs after the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals in the final week of the season. Even though the two teams finished with identical 8-8 records, the Bears advanced with a better record of common opponents over the Cardinals with key wins over the Rams, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, and New York Giants. The Bears were 3-2 while the Cardinals were 1-4. As for the Saints, they finished 12-4, falling short of going 3 consecutive years of 13-3 records, but still making the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
The game was the two teams first meeting in the playoffs since the 2006 NFC Championship.
The Bears' and Saints' first drives of the game quickly ended in punts. The only scoring of the first quarter came at the end of an 8-play, 55-yard drive, ending in a touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees to his wide receiver, Michael Thomas, putting the score at 7–0. During the next Bears drive, receiver Javon Wims dropped a deep pass in the endzone, which would have tied the game for Chicago. In the second quarter, kicker Wil Lutz missed a 50-yard field goal wide right. After taking over, the Bears were quickly three-and-out. On the next Saints drive, quarterback Taysom Hill fumbled, which was recovered by defensive tackle John Jenkins at the Saints' 24-yard line. From there, the Bears drove the ball to the 18, and had to settle for a 36-yard Cairo Santos field goal, putting the score at 7–3.
Chicago received the ball to start the third quarter. During the drive, receiver Anthony Miller was disqualified from the game after punching Saints safety C. J. Gardner-Johnson in the helmet near his face. After the Bears punted, Brees and his offense went on a 12-play, 85-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Latavius Murray, putting the score at 14–3. With the Bears quickly going three-and-out on their next drive, New Orleans once again scored on their next drive, this time going on a 15-play, 64-yard drive, ending on a 3-yard touchdown run by Alvin Kamara, with the score now 21–3. Chicago quickly punted again on their next drive, with the Saints almost scoring again on the ensuing possession, but Brees' touchdown run was overturned on review. On the Bears' final possession of the game, Mitchell Trubisky's offense went on an 11-play, 99-yard drive, capped off by a 19-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham for a touchdown, as time expired, ending the game in a final score of 21–9, for a Saints win.
at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Date: January 10, 2021
- Game time: 3:40 p.m. CST
- Game weather: None (indoor stadium)
- Game attendance: 3,000[lower-alpha 1]
- Referee: Alex Kemp
- TV announcers (CBS, Nickelodeon and Prime Video):
- CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, and Jay Feely
- Nickelodeon: Noah Eagle, Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, and Lex Lumpkin
- Prime Video: Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer
- Recap, Game Book
|Allen Robinson||WR||Michael Thomas|
|Charles Leno Jr.||LT||Terron Armstead|
|Cody Whitehair||LG||Andrus Peat|
|Sam Mustipher||C||Erik McCoy|
|Alex Bars||RG||Cesar Ruiz|
|Germain Ifedi||RT||Ryan Ramczyk|
|Cole Kmet||TE||Jared Cook|
|Riley Ridley||WR||Emmanuel Sanders|
|Mitchell Trubisky||QB||Drew Brees|
|David Montgomery||RB||Latavius Murray|
|Anthony Miller||WR||QB||Taysom Hill|
|Akiem Hicks||DT||Malcom Brown|
|Brent Urban||DE||Cameron Jordan|
|Bilal Nichols||DT||DE||Marcus Davenport|
|Manti Te'o||ILB||DT||David Onyemata|
|Danny Trevathan||ILB||MLB||Demario Davis|
|Robert Quinn||OLB||WILL||Alex Anzalone|
|Khalil Mack||OLB||LCB||Marshon Lattimore|
|Kindle Vildor||CB||RCB||Janoris Jenkins|
|Kyle Fuller||CB||SS||Malcolm Jenkins|
|Eddie Jackson||SS||Marcus Williams|
|Tashaun Gipson||SS||NB||C.J. Gardner-Johnson|
- Referee: Alex Kemp (#55)
- Umpire: Dan Ferrell (#64)
- Down Judge: Dana McKenzie (#8)
- Line Judge: Greg Bradley (#98)
- Field Judge: Nathan Jones (#42)
- Side Judge: Dane Hawkshaw (#107)
- Back Judge: Scott Helverson (#93)
- Replay Official: Mike Chase
With the NFL expanding its Wild Card round to six games this season, broadcast rights to the new games were sold to CBS and NBC respectively, at approximately $70 million each. Both networks announced plans to simulcast their games on other outlets owned by their parent companies, with NBC planning to simulcast its game on its recently-launched streaming service Peacock, and on its Spanish-language broadcast network Telemundo. CBS announced plans to carry a youth-oriented broadcast of the game on Nickelodeon, a children's cable network that had once again become a sister to CBS following the 2019 remerger of Viacom and CBS Corporation to form ViacomCBS.
The game was called by CBS's lead commentary team of Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Tony Romo (color). Due to COVID-19 protocols (which had also caused him to miss the previous week's game), Romo worked remotely. Nantz, as well as reporters Jay Feely and Tracy Wolfson, were present on-site in New Orleans.
In October 2020, Amazon acquired rights to simulcast one of CBS's NFC Wild Card games on Prime Video, as part of its digital rights to the league (expanding upon its involvement with Thursday Night Football).
The idea for Nickelodeon to televise an NFL game was that of CBS Sports' chairman Sean McManus. During negotiations, McManus brought the idea up to the league, which was looking to reach younger and diverse audiences. While the network has aired sports-related programming in the past (such as its athletics game show Nickelodeon Guts, and its Kids' Choice Sports awards), this marked the first live sporting event to ever be televised by Nickelodeon.
McManus explained that the production planned to "respect the integrity of the game", but that there would be features "to make it look and feel very, very different than a CBS broadcast, which it should. I think it's really going to be fun." Coordinating producer Shawn Robbins described the broadcast as being a "Nick-ified", "co-viewing" experience for parents and children, and that it would still "look somewhat the same", as they did not want to "mess with your football and put stuff on if that’s going to take away from the viewing experience."
Noah Eagle (son of CBS Sports commentator Ian Eagle, and radio play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Clippers) served as play-by-play announcer, alongside former wide receiver and Good Morning Football and The NFL Today analyst Nate Burleson. They were also joined by two Nickelodeon actors, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Lex Lumpkin (who are both cast members of Nickelodeon's comedy series All That), as analyst and field reporter respectively. Emphasis was placed on educating viewers of the rules of football; this included appearances by Sheldon Cooper (as played by Iain Armitage on CBS sitcom Young Sheldon) to explain penalties. Robbins told The New York Times that Green was accidentally sent an 800-page package of game notes that was intended for Tony Romo.
The broadcast would feature various Nickelodeon-themed effects and features designed to appeal to the youth audience. Various augmented reality graphics were employed, including the first down line being rendered in orange with animated green "slime" rather in yellow, as well as the end zone pylons becoming virtual "slime cannons" on touchdowns (both in keeping with the network's long tradition of green slime), the net behind the uprights on field goal attempts being rendered as the face of SpongeBob SquarePants, and replays edited to include "Snapchat-like" filters such as hats, googly eyes, and Nickelodeon characters. During the halftime show, 3D animated recreations of highlights with Minecraft-like "Blockie" players were featured, generated using data from the NFL Next Gen Stats system.
The Week 13 game between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles was used as a rehearsal to test the effects and workflows. Eight dedicated cameras were used to augment those being shared with the main CBS production, in order to provide camera angles optimized for the augmented reality effects (such as a wider end zone view for the aforementioned "slime cannon").
Various tie-ins were provided for the broadcast; the NFLNickPlay website featured supplemental content, as well as the ability to collect SpongeBob SquarePants and The Loud House-themed content via QR codes. During the week of the game, Madden NFL 21's "The Yard" mode was updated with SpongeBob SquarePants themed content, including a Bikini Bottom-themed "reef-top" stadium, and SpongeBob-themed modifiers. Immediately prior to the game, Nickelodeon aired a sports-themed SpongeBob clip show, The SpongeBob SportsPants Countdown Special, which was hosted by Burleson. Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller was originally supposed to host the show, but was not present. It was later revealed on January 15 that Miller was under an unknown criminal investigation in Colorado. A preview of the new SpongeBob SquarePants spin-off series, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years, was also aired at halftime.
The Nickelodeon broadcast was well received by those watching the game, who loved the added kid-friendly elements. Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated praised the looser feel and nature compared to most NFL broadcasts, saying, "I left Sunday’s game with no doubt that football would be completely fine if we yanked the business pants off the current operation like Nickelodeon did over the weekend and allowed the things we like about the sport to speak for themselves. If we embraced the goofiness of the entire thing." Tim Keown of ESPN.com, even though he thought the game was "terrible", said in a review, "the Nick broadcast was a hell of a lot of fun, maybe the best experience I've had watching a game this season." The poor offensive play didn't hurt his enjoyment of the broadcast, calling it, "nice to hang out in a place where nobody seemed to care." Former quarterback Kurt Warner, who was watching the game with his son, tweeted: "My son loves @Nickelodeon but has never sat and watched a football game with me UNTIL today...I appreciate Nick introducing our kids to the game in a fun & entertaining way!!"
A vote was held online during the game for the Nickelodeon Valuable Player (NVP), which was voted on by fans. Despite losing the game, the winner of the award was Trubisky, who received 49% of the vote over Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan. He was presented a trophy, adorned with the Nickelodeon blimp.
With 6 seconds left in the 2nd quarter, offsetting penalties were called on Justin Hardee of the Saints for running into the kicker, and Cordarrelle Patterson of the Bears for voluntarily running out of bounds during a punt, which is unsportsmanlike conduct. As referee Alex Kemp was announcing the penalty, the microphone picked up a player saying "the fuck?" after Kemp mistakenly called the penalty on #85, tight end Cole Kmet, instead of Patterson's #84. Fans and media watching the game identified Patterson as the one thought to have said the swear, but he later went on Twitter and claimed it was not him. The incident went uncensored on Nick.
- 2020–21 NFL playoffs
- ESPN Megacast
- Attendance was limited to 3,000 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Louisiana.
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