CHICAGO — Soldier Field was mostly empty when the final few seconds ticked off. The Chicago Bears trudged off the field and into a morose locker room, while the New Orleans Saints went in search of a playoff berth.
For Jay Cutler and the Bears, it just keeps getting worse.
Cutler threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times in Chicago's 31-15 loss to New Orleans on Monday night. The Bears gained 159 of their 278 yards and scored both of their touchdowns in the final period, long after the Saints had grabbed control of a rainy matchup of underachieving teams.
"This is not a good feeling. It's not easy to go out here and lose the way we're losing and be in these situations that we're in," left tackle Jermon Bushrod said, before pausing for a couple seconds. "It's not easy. We just have to find a way to get through it."
The last-place Bears (5-9) have lost three in a row and six of eight. They have been outscored 106-60 the last three weeks, dropping each of those games by at least 13 points.
"It's certainly been three disappointing weeks and tonight was no different," coach Marc Trestman said. "I thought defensively our guys really gave everything they had tonight. They were just on the field too long."
Drew Brees was 29 for 36 for 375 yards and three touchdowns, helping New Orleans (6-8) grab sole possession of first place in the woeful NFC South. Carolina (5-8-1) drops to second, and Atlanta (5-9) is in third.
The Saints finish the season with a home game against the Falcons and a visit to lowly Tampa Bay (2-12).
"The tendency after success is to relax, and it's not time to relax," Brees said.
New Orleans was coming off a 41-10 home loss to Carolina and had one of the worst defenses in the league entering the weekend, but it was working on a shutout before Cutler threw a 1-yard pass to Marquess Wilson with 12:47 remaining for the second-year receiver's first NFL touchdown. He also found Alshon Jeffery for a 7-yard touchdown with 30 seconds left in the game.
"They had a good plan," Cutler said during a brief postgame press conference. "They mixed it up against us pretty well."
Chicago had just six first downs and 119 yards after three quarters. David Hawthorne finished with three sacks for New Orleans, and Pierre Warren had two of the Saints' three interceptions.
"I thought we did a real good job," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said, praising his defense. "We forced some turnovers. I thought we got the pressure we've been looking for. I thought our third-down defense was much improved."
The Saints went ahead in the second quarter after wasting several opportunities in the opening period. Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was called for a 17-yard pass-interference penalty trying to defend Jimmy Graham, setting up New Orleans with a first down at the 8.
Brees then rolled to his right on the first play of the second quarter and found an open Josh Hill, who lunged across the goal line for an 8-yard touchdown.
The first half was so bad for Chicago that its best play might have been Patrick O'Donnell's 56-yard punt that went out of bounds at the New Orleans 5 with about four minutes left in the second. But the Saints responded with a 10-play, 95-yard drive.
Brees threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 38 seconds left, giving the Saints a 14-0 lead.
"I think we responded well as a team," Brees said. "We were embarrassed about what happened last week."
It also was an embarrassing week for the Bears after offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitted Friday that he asked for the forgiveness of players and other coaches Monday while apologizing to them for remarks he made to an NFL Network reporter that were critical of Cutler and the offense.
But offensive tackle Jordan Mills said the situation with the coaching staff had no effect on the Bears' play in the game.
"People make mistakes. We're not perfect," Mills said. "That had nothing to do with our focus this week."
NOTES: Bears kicker Robbie Gould was inactive with a right quadriceps injury, leaving the kicking duties to Jay Feely for the second straight week. Safety Chris Conte and offensive lineman Michael Ola missed the game because of back injuries. ... Saints LT Terron Armstead (neck) started and LB Junior Galette (knee) played after they were listed as questionable.
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