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Saints cruise past lethargic Bears for NFC South lead

On a misty, foggy Monday night at Soldier Field, Drew Brees passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns to lead the New Orleans Saints to a convincing 31-15 victory over the lethargic Chicago Bears. Our takeaways:

  1. Brees enjoyed one of his best games of the season, but it's hard to judge how much of that was merely the luck of the draw against a slump-busting Bears squad that was flat-out undisciplined and noncompetitive from the opening whistle. The bottom line is that the Saints reclaimed a semblance of momentum and sole possession of first place in the NFC South, with a home bout versus the Falcons and a road game at Tampa left on the schedule. One possibility is entering January with a three-game winning streak, a healthy Jimmy Graham and homefield advantage versus the Cardinals' third-string quarterback.
  1. Jay Cutler did nothing to prove Aaron Kromer wrong after the offensive coordinator tearfully apologized for questioning his quarterback's game management skills last week. Cutler was shut out at halftime for the fourth time this season, tied with the Titans and the Buccaneers for the most in the NFL. His three interceptions stand out in the box score, but it was the lack of execution at the line of scrimmage and poor fundamentals that doomed the offense until garbage time. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Cutler realizes he might not be back in Chicago next season. Monday's embarrassing performance won't do anything to endear him to the front office.
  1. Cutler isn't alone. The Bears are going to have to seriously consider cleaning house in the offseason. Despite an overhauled defense and skill-position personnel that rank among the NFL's most talented on offense, Marc Trestman's team has sleepwalked through games that featured 45-7, 45-0, 24-0 deficits since midseason. Phil Emery acknowledged being "very angry" and "very upset" about the Kromer-Cutler kerfuffle, but the general manager shouldn't get a free pass, either. From the Trestman hire to the misguided Cutler contract extension to the swings-and-misses on defense, Emery's moves simply haven't panned out.
  1. Kenny Vaccaro's banishment to nickel duty worked out well, but it's impossible to separate the Saints' defensive changes from the Bears' sheer ineptitude. On a positive note, their seven sacks Monday night are a season-high on Cutler -- and 44 percent of the Falcons' season total.
  1. The Saints' offense had a good omen of its own in the form of a revitalized Graham, who recorded his most yards in a single game since spraining his shoulder in early October. Graham's reckless attempt to hurdle safety Brock Vereen on this 22-yard reception can be seen as a sign that he is no longer over-protecting the shoulder that has contributed to his limited production of late.

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