The most disappointing Bears season in recent memory continued its downward spiral Monday night at Soldier Field with yet another humiliating loss, this time to the New Orleans Saints.
As has been the case most of the year, the Bears were hampered by an inept offense, costly penalties and inexplicable blunders—like having only 10 players on the field for a fake punt.
The Bears trailed 24-0 through three quarters before scoring a pair of late touchdowns that made the 31-15 final score appear closer than the game actually was. Heading into the final period, New Orleans held decisive advantages in yards (381-119) and first downs (23-6).
View photos from the game as the Bears take on the Saints at Soldier Field.
In losing their third straight to fall to 5-9, the Bears remained in sole possession of last place in the NFC North and clinched their first losing season since they went 7-9 in 2009. The Saints, meanwhile, moved into first place in the porous NFC South with a 6-8 record.
Drew Brees torched the Bears, completing 29 of 36 passes for 375 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 137.8 passer rating. Counterpart Jay Cutler connected on 17 of 31 passes for 194 yards with two TDs, three interceptions and a 55.8 rating while being sacked seven times.
The Bears' first nine possessions resulted in three interceptions, five punts and a failed fake punt.
"We never got going offensively," said veteran center Roberto Garza. "Too many three-and-outs. When you don't protect your quarterback, you make it tough to stay on the field."
In the second quarter, Brees threw TD passes of 8 yards to tight end Josh Hill and 9 yards to receiver Marques Colston to give the Saints a 14-0 halftime lead, capping drives of 85 and 95 yards. In the first half, Brees' passer rating was 132.2 points higher than Cutler's (147.1-14.9).
"Offensively, we didn't play well," said coach Marc Trestman. "We were very inconsistent. We had no passing game. We had seven sacks. We were not in unison tonight collectively on the offensive side of the ball, and that starts with me."
After Brees capped the opening possession of the third quarter with a 7-yard TD pass to Hill to make it 21-0, the Saints had outgained the Bears 325-92. New Orleans entered Week 15 ranked 31st in the NFL in defense and had allowed 34, 32 and 41 points in its last three games.
"The bottom line is we are not getting it done," Trestman said. "It starts with me. It's been inconsistent throughout the year and we haven't been able to get it right yet."
The mistake-prone Bears committed nine penalties for 74 yards. In the first quarter alone, they drew three flags for holding and one for pass interference on a third-down incompletion, sustaining a drive that resulted in the Saints' first touchdown.
The Bears eventually cut the deficit to 24-8 early in the fourth quarter on Cutler's 1-yard touchdown pass to Marquess Wilson and a two-point conversion pass to Martellus Bennett.
The Saints increased their lead to 31-8 on Mark Ingram's 15-yard touchdown run with 1:47 remaining before Cutler's 7-yard TD pass to Alshon Jeffery made it 31-15 with :30 to play.
It was too little too late for the Bears, who have suffered embarrassing losses throughout a forgettable season by margins of 21, 13, 28, 41, 17, 13 and 16 points.
"Absolutely it's frustrating," Cutler said. "We're trying to say the same thing different ways after games. You get to a point where you don't have the answer. I think that's where we're at."