The NFC South, as we all know, has been pretty much awful this season. The New Orleans Saints are in first place with a 6-8 record and are the only team in the division with a chance to finish .500.

Why has the NFC South been so bad?

“I don’t really know,” Saints linebacker David Hawthorne said on Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s the National Football League. Every week you got to step it up and you got to come to play – and if you don’t, you’ll come up on the less fortunate side. It’s our job to come out and try to right our ship and create our own fortune.”

The Saints certainly did that Monday night, strolling into Chicago and laying a beat-down on the Bears, 31-15. New Orleans led 14-0 at halftime and 24-0 through three quarters, picked Jay Cutler off three times, sacked him seven times and allowed just 278 total yards – most of which came in garbage time.

“It was a positive,” Hawthorne said. “Just to come out and do what we did, we’ve been practicing all year for it. And that’s to come out and just execute and put the game plan out there.”

If the game plan was for Hawthorne to dominate, it worked. The 29-year-old TCU product finished with five tackles and three sacks – more than the entire Bears defense.

“Just out there doing what it takes to help my boys win,” Hawthorne said. “It was a little bit of us, but it was more of Coach (Rob) Ryan just dialing them up. He had a game plan going into it, and it meant a lot to him. So we just came out and we executed.”

Ryan has taken a lot of heat this year, as the Saints rank outside of the top 25 in both pass defense and rush defense. But despite posting a losing record at home (3-4), where they’re normally dominant, the Saints control their own destiny. They host Atlanta (5-9) this Sunday and travel to Tampa Bay (2-12) in the regular-season finale.

“I think tonight we got back to the basics like we always do and we find a way to get that W against the Falcons,” Hawthorne said. “I think tonight was a building block for us.”

Drew Brees was a stellar 29-of-36 for 375 yards and three touchdowns – two to Josh Hill, who finished with two receptions for 15 yards. He now has five touchdowns on the season.

“Josh has been phenomenal all year,” Hawthorne said. “He’s one of those hard-hat kind of guys who comes in and goes to work and I’m just glad it paid off for him.”

The Saints played a fairly clean game against Chicago. They were whistled for just three penalties and tallied 25 first downs.

“It’s a good feeling when you come out and you just execute,” Hawthorne said. “And that’s been our deal all year – just not executing in all phases. And today we came out and we did what we talked about all week – and that’s a great feeing.”

The Saints have now won three straight road games – at Carolina, at Pittsburgh and at Chicago.

“I think it has to do a lot with our process – just sticking to our process and not really caring about what environment (we play in) or where we’re going,” Hawthorne said. “If you execute and you’re the best team on the field, then things will pay off for you.”


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