Chicago - The New Orleans Saints trounced the Chicago Bears 31-15 on Monday night at Soldier Field to move into first place in the NFC South with just two games left in the regular season.
The Saints (6-8) won their third consecutive road game and set the stage for a pivotal home game Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (5-9). The Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) are in second place in the division. The Saints will end the regular season at Tampa Bay (2-12) on Dec. 28.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, playing in his 200th NFL game, had a spectacular game as he passed 4,000 yards for the ninth consecutive season by completing 29 of 36 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns. Brees has thrown for more than 300 yards in 85 of his 200 NFL games.
The Saints' defense,turned in perhaps its finest performance of the season, sacking Bears quarterback Jay Cutler seven times (three by linebacker David Hawthorne, two by linebacker Junior Galette) and intercepting him three times (Patrick Robinson and two by safety Pierre Warren).
Cutler finished 17 of 31 for 194 yards with two touchdowns and the three interceptions. Running back Matt Forte, a Slidell native and Tulane graduate, was the team's best offensive weapon with 16 carries for 78 yards. Cutler hit Marquess Wilson with a 1-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter and the Bears converted the 2-point attempt and he connected with Alson Jeffrey on a 7-yard scoring play in garbage time.
Brees spread the ball around, connecting twice with Josh Hill for TDs (8 and 7 yards) and once with favorite target, Marques Colston (9 yards). Colston finished with five receptions for 65 yards. Eight players caught passes with Pierre Thomas grabbing five for 83 yards, Kenny Stills with five for 67 and tight end Jimmy Graham with five for 87 yards.
Mark Ingram led the rushing attack with 59 yards on 17 carries, including his team's final touchdown on a 15-yard scamper. Shayne Graham made a 25-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter.