The undefeated New Orleans Saints marched into Soldier Field on Sunday—and they sprinted out with a 26-18 victory over the Bears.
The Bears went from winning three in a row at the start of the season to losing back-to-back games, first against Detroit and now the Saints, who had lost the past three games they played in Chicago.
"This is the NFL; any team can be beat on Sunday," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "Obviously we didn't play our best games these last two weeks, but we still have a long season ahead."
Sunday's loss was tough to swallow for fans, who watched the Bears get off to a rough start. A fumble by running back Matt Forte was followed by quarterback Jay Cutler getting sacked twice—all in the first quarter. Things didn't improve much, and even a patented surge in the fourth quarter couldn't save the Bears this time.
"It's disappointing that we didn't give our fans what they came to see, and that was a good start," coach Marc Trestman said. "I think our guys played hard throughout, though."
On that note, Chicago had plenty of reasons to cheer, sigh and cringe Sunday.
Statistically, Cutler had a better day than Saints counterpart Drew Brees. Cutler completed 24 of 33 passes for 358 yards and had a passer rating of 128.1, while Brees had just 288 yards and a 120.0 rating. Cutler also ran for 27 yards and didn't throw an interception.
Jeffery set a Bears single-game record with 218 yards receiving—including a huge catch for 58 yards in the fourth quarter to help put the Bears in scoring position. Of course, he also scored the Bears' first touchdown, bringing fans to their feet. But he wasn't celebrating in the locker room. "It's not about what I did, it's about what the team did," he said. "And we didn't get the win."
Lance Briggs was all over the New Orleans backfield Sunday, tallying 11 tackles and sacking Brees. The Bears could have used about five of him, though.
Early on, several players appeared to slip on the grass. (Bears lineman Jermon Bushrod said it was a little damp, but other players didn't find it to be a factor.) And on a key play in the fourth quarter with the Bears down 23-10, Earl Bennett let a sure first-down catch slip through his fingers.
The Bears will have to bounce back quickly to be ready for a Thursday game against the N.Y. Giants. And that's not easy. The Bears take the day off Monday but come back Tuesday and Wednesday for practice. "We just have to keep getting better," Cutler said. "Guys are going to be a little bit sore, but we just have to pound through it."
The Bears were flagged for six penalties, none more costly than Briggs being called for offsides on a crucial New Orleans fourth down in the fourth quarter. Instead of the Saints punting, they were able to kill more clock.
Not only did the Bears have a slow start, but they made big mistakes. For starters, Forte nearly turned the ball over on the first play from scrimmage, resulting in a 10-yard loss. "Sometimes stuff like that happens," he said. "Nobody on this team is perfect. … We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, just with silly stuff like missing protections, I dropped the ball."
Where was the protection? Cutler was sacked three times and fumbled on one of them, resulting in a Saints field goal in the first quarter. It could've been worse, as he was hit and harrassed all afternoon.
At least three Bears players sustained injuries, including tight end Martellus Bennett, Jennings and defensive tackle Nate Collins, who hurt his knee and didn't return to the game. Bennett's injury was particularly scary, as he flipped and looked to have landed on his head. "I was all right," he said. "It probably looked cool on TV, but I'm all right. I made the play, so that's all that really matters. … I did gymnastics as a kid, so I finished the flip."
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