CHICAGO (AP) - Drew Brees saw a different attitude, noticed a better vibe this time.
Jimmy Graham could sense it, too.
"You should have heard this locker room before the game started," he said. "We need to come out every week just like that."
There was plenty for the Saints to like about their 31-15 victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
Brees threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns, and New Orleans (6-8) moved into first place ahead of Carolina (5-8-1) and Atlanta (5-9) after losing four of its previous five games. The Saints also rebounded from a 41-10 loss to the Panthers.
"I saw a lot of enthusiasm," Brees said. "I saw a lot of guys just ready to play. And I think just ready to go out there and turn it loose, not play with any inhibitions, not play with any caution, paralysis by over-analysis. Just come out and play ball and do it like we normally can do."
He figures the Saints will find out more about themselves the final two weeks, with a home game against Atlanta followed by a trip to Tampa Bay.
Here are some things we learned from the Saints' win over the Bears:
BREES-ING ALONG: Brees made it look easy after a shaky game last week, completing 29 of 36 passes and reached the 4,000-yard mark for the ninth straight year. He threw two touchdown passes to Josh Hill and another to Marques Colston.
"The focus he prepares with is very consistent," coach Sean Payton said. "It really became a little bit more about this team playing together and trying to put four good quarters together."
CLAMPING DOWN: Calling this an improvement for the Saints' defense would be a mild understatement.
New Orleans held Chicago (5-9) to 278 yards after giving up more than 400 in four straight games. They also sacked Jay Cutler seven times to go with three interceptions, bringing his NFL-leading turnover total to 24.
"I think it was 11 guys out there executing," said David Hawthorne, who had three sacks. "It was the guys out there covering, giving me time to come up the middle. And it was Rob (Ryan) with perfect timing when to dial it up. Once we found something he stayed with it."
NOT CUTTING IT: It wasn't a great night for Cutler during the game or afterward.
He completed 17 of 31 passes for 194 yards and had a season-low 55.8 rating. He wasn't at his best afterward, either.
Cutler answered three questions and walked out of the postgame press conference after he was told most of the media had just been alerted he was at the podium and were on their way.
"We're going to wait for them?" he said and then left.
That happened after Cutler scored points with the public for his professional response to the Aaron Kromer situation.
Kromer, Chicago's offensive coordinator, acknowledged he was a source behind a critical report by the NFL Network about Cutler, owning up to it in public Friday after earlier asking players and coaches for forgiveness.
UNHAPPY FANS: Bears fans made their feelings clear by not showing up.
There were 10,749 no-shows on a soggy night, and that might not have been a bad thing for the Bears, the way they played.
The fans who came out clearly were not happy, showering the team with boos at halftime with the Saints up 14-0.
TOP OF THE HILL: Hill had gone six straight games without a touchdown catch. He now has five on the season. And the two scores Monday - an 8-yard catch in the second and a 7-yarder in the third - came on similar plays, with Brees running a bootleg to his right.
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. ... Singer Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy performed the National Anthem.
AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed