help the New Orleans Saints cut the Chicago Bears' lead to 21-14 through three quarters on Thursday night.
Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye thwarted a New Orleans drive in the third with an interception but the Saints got the ball right back when Kyle Orton's pass bounced off Rashied Davis to safety Josh Bullocks, who returned the pick 23 yards to the Bears 45. Two plays later, Thomas found an opening and scored his second TD of the game.
Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 83 yards, Matt Forte had a 1-yard TD run set up by a pass interference call and Orton scampered six yards for a TD with 49 seconds to go in the second as the Bears built a 21-7 lead.
Drew Brees, who entered with a league-leading 4,100 yards passing, was only 10-for-24 for 93 yards in the opening half with an interception and a TD. And his second pick came when Ogunleye, who was in his face, reached up and batted the ball before picking it off. Brees was 16-of-33 for 162 yards through three quarters.
Manning's second long kickoff return, a 52-yarder in the second quarter, set up the go-ahead score.
t in the half.
The Soldier Field weather at kickoff was predictably cold but could have been worse. It was 28 degrees with an 11 mph wind and a wind chill of 18 for the matchup of 7-6 teams hoping to make the playoffs.
Thomas hauled in a 2-yard TD pass from Brees, a score set up by Orton's fumble at the 1, as the Saints tied it in the second.
After a punt by the Saints' Glenn Pakulak was downed on the 1-yard line by Usama Young, Orton fumbled the snap on the next play and Jonathan Vilma recovered to set up the score.
The Saints lost a yard on first down but Thomas, a Chicago native who played at the University of Illinois, took a swing pass from Brees and hurdled into the end zone.
When the Saints won the pregame toss and deferred until the second half, the Bears got the ball and Manning was ready.
Manning, who has replaced Hester returning kickoffs, caught the ball at the 17, went to the right, cut back and broke into the open. He started waving his left finger in triumph around midfield as he outraced the Saints to the end zone.
On their first possession, the Saints drove to the Chicago 40 - a holding penalty on cornerback Corey Graham wiped out a sack of Brees. But on third down, Brees' pass for Lance Moore was intercepted by Mike Brown at the 23.
The Saints were playing their third pivotal game at Soldier Field in the past two years. In the season finale last December they lost 33-25, ending any chance they had of making the postseason. Eleven months earlier, they were beaten by the Bears 39-14 in the NFC championship game.

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