The NFC East reached an embarrassing low Thursday night. The once-proud division was left with all its teams below .500 as the Dallas Cowboys made their latest contribution to the losing-fest with a 31-24 defeat to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

Beleaguered Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had a big night, with three touchdown passes and a touchdown run, to add to Dallas’s woes. The division-leading but downward-spiraling Cowboys had their losing streak extended to three games. Their record dropped to 6-7 but they remain a half-game ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Eagles, who are 5-7. The two teams play Dec. 22 in Philadelphia.

“It’s leveled out here,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters after the game. “It’s losing, losing, losing. So I’m not trying to be funny here. But the point is that we’ve got to win a football game. I don’t care what the standings are, what the numbers are.”

Someone must win an ever-more-pitiable division in which even the lowly Washington Redskins, at 3-9, are not completely out of it. And not only that; the NFC East winner will host a first-round playoff game, most likely against the loser of the NFC West duel between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, a pair of 10-2 teams.

“Are you asking me if I would take the division, go to the playoffs if we got it, on any basis? The answer is yes,” Jones said. “Absolutely, yes. ... Your goal, the first goal, is to get to the playoffs.”

There have been two NFL division winners with losing records in a 16-game season. The Seahawks won the NFC West at 7-9 in 2010 and the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South at 7-8-1 in 2014. Two other teams made the playoffs with losing records in a strike-shortened season in 1982.

“The talk is over,” former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said on the postgame portion of the Fox broadcast, “and it has been for a while.”

Aikman’s former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, said on the NFL Network’s postgame show: “It’s just bad right now. That team is just playing bad.”

Irvin said it might be time to for Jones to fire Jason Garrett as the Cowboys’ coach.

“I don’t know how you continue down this road,” Irvin said, “with what you’ve seen on this field this last two games.”

The Cowboys continue to do all they can to hand away a division they should be winning handily. They began Thursday’s game with a magnificent 17-play touchdown drive against Chicago’s still-formidable defense. Then the Cowboys surrendered 24 consecutive points. It was reminiscent of their Thanksgiving defeat at home to the Buffalo Bills, in which they got an opening touchdown and then yielded 26 straight points.

Tailback Ezekiel Elliott ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears. But quarterback Dak Prescott completed only 27 of 49 throws. He had a one-for-nine stretch of passing inaccuracy after a five-for-seven start. Prescott was seen shaking his right hand after hitting it on the shoulder of Bears linebacker Khalil Mack on his follow-through on a first-half throw. Much of his production, including a touchdown pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper, came late and proved cosmetic. Prescott finished with 334 passing yards.

Kicker Brett Maher’s field goal with eight seconds remaining got the Cowboys to within seven points, but the Bears recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.

“We need to play better,” Garrett said at his postgame news conference. “We need to play more confidently. And unfortunately we didn’t get that done tonight.”

Elliott told reporters afterward that he was “tired as hell” of answering questions about the Cowboys’ woes.

“We just didn’t play well,” Elliott said. “We’ve just got to go out there and play better football. ... It’s not clicking. We’re not playing well. You can’t really put your finger on it. That’s the tough part.”

Maher contributed his 10th missed field goal attempt of the season, the most in the NFL, and sent a kickoff out of bounds after Elliott’s fourth-down touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter got the Cowboys to within 24-14. That led to Trubisky’s rushing touchdown on an option-play keeper.

The Dallas defense had two takeaways but also missed tackles, committed costly penalties and could not stop Trubisky, who had his second straight game with three touchdown passes. Two of them went to wide receiver Allen Robinson, including one just before halftime on which Robinson was awarded a catch when he and Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith had simultaneous possession of the football in the end zone. Trubisky added a second-half touchdown throw to wideout Anthony Miller as the Bears upped their record to 7-6 with their third straight win.

“We continue to believe,” Trubisky told Fox after the game. “And I think that’s why we’re playing the way we are right now.”

The Cowboys, at this point, can only dream of such prosperity. Jones tried putting Garrett, his 10th-year coach, on notice following a loss at New England. That didn’t work. Jones’s next move was to follow the Thanksgiving defeat to the Bills by retaining Garrett and saying that was the only hope for the Cowboys to produce a storybook ending to their season and reach the Super Bowl. Jones said this week that Garrett will be coaching in the NFL next year, without specifying whether it will be in Dallas.

“Well, again, it shows so much for that,” Jones said Thursday night, “about effectively what wins or loses football games. That’s not what gets it done. ... They played a really fine football game tonight and they took it to us. ... I don’t care if we stay in contention all the way down until they have the playoffs. We’ve got to start showing our fans, and more importantly showing ourselves, that we can do the things to win the games.”

Jones was asked about his recent criticism of his team’s coaches.

“You may have noticed I’ve been praising them, too,” he said. “So much for words.”

What’s left for Jones to say or do?