Bears can't get anything going in loss to Seattle
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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is sacked by Seattle Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy in the second half.
Devin Hester's record-tying 89-yard punt-return touchdown made the final score respectable.
But that shouldn't obscure the many offensive failures in the Bears' 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked six more times in his first game back since suffering a concussion two weeks ago during a 9-sack assault against the New York Giants.
The third-down offense was again somewhere south of pathetic, failing to convert on any of its 12 opportunities.
The Bears came into the game having converted just 21 percent of their third-down opportunities, the worst mark in the NFL and they got even worse.
With Cutler behind center, the Bears have failed to convert any of their last 22 third-down opportunities.
In their last three games, the Bears have converted 3 of 40 third downs, for a laughable 7.5 percent success rate. The NFL average is 38.2 percent.
"Offensively, we didn't get anything done, Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Third downs, on the offensive side of the football, we can't reach the place we're trying to go until we can take care of third downs.
The Bears fell to 4-2 but held on to a 1-game lead in the NFC North when Green Bay lost in overtime to Miami. Minnesota improved to 2-3 by beating Dallas.
After the Bears took the opening kickoff and scored in just 2:18 for a 7-0 lead thanks to a 58-yard pass interference penalty, the offense never again found the end zone.
The run game was useless early and then abandoned with good reason later. Not counting a 24-yard scamper by Chester Taylor on the final running play of the afternoon, the Bears ran 13 times for 37 yards.
The newly reconfigured offensive line wasn't any better than any of the previous three alignments, and it may have been worse.
"Protection-wise, it's still a problem, Smith said. "It's something we have to fix. "We never really got the running game established, didn't get a whole lot done.
Half of the sacks on Cutler came on blitzes when the extra rusher wasn't touched. And again Cutler failed to help the situation by not getting rid of the ball sooner.
The horrible field position that plagued the Bears throughout a first half in which they were fortunate to only be trailing 14-13, continued after intermission. Cutler was sacked at his 1-yard line and fumbled into the end zone. He recovered, but the safety gave the Seahawks a 16-13 lead they never relinquished.
"We've got to figure it out, Cutler said of the league-worst 27 sacks the Bears have allowed, 23 of them on him. "It's becoming a problem. It's on me, it's on the offensive line, it's on the receivers.
"We've got to go in, look at the film, make some corrections somewhere along the line and figure it out. I've got to get the ball out quicker. We've got to identify who's coming and who's not and receivers have got to see it.
It's worth noting that of the Bears' 12 third-down failures Sunday, seven began with an incomplete pass on first down and an eighth started with a sack.
"There was an emphasis to run the ball, Smith said. "We tried to run the ball a little bit, (but) we couldn't do that.
Cutler threw for 290 yards, thanks to some impressive yards-after-catch totals by Devin Aromashodu, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox in the first half; they turned short passes into gains of 34, 36 and 67 yards, respectively.
But Cutler completed just 17 of 39 passes (43.3 percent), his second worst as a Bear. His previous low this season was 59.3 percent.
"Like the rest of us, (his) performance was not good enough, Smith said of Cutler. "Most of the time, if you get sacked that many times, it's a combination of protection, and the quarterback, receivers, everybody is involved with it. We didn't play well enough to win the game.
After the Bears fell behind 23-13 with 13:45 remaining, Danieal Manning appeared to get them back in the game with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that got the fans on their feet.
But it became just another case of bad field position when a holding call on Rod Wilson wiped it out and left the Bears at their own 9.
"It's frustrating because … you heard the crowd, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "Everyone was excited about that, and for it to be taken away, the air just went out of whole stadium.
Hester's score was his 13th kick-return TD, tying him with Brian Mitchell for the NFL career record. It brought the Bears within 3 points, but they failed to recover an onside kick.
"That was big for Devin, Smith said. "But it was a little bit too late.
Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials at DailyHerald.com
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