With no scoring help from their defense that had 7 touchdowns in the first eight games, and without concussed quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears just didn’t have enough firepower to get past the Texans on Sunday night at Soldier Field.
Their season-worst 4 turnovers, all in the first half, didn’t help either. The 13-6 defeat ended the six-game winning streak for coach Lovie Smith’s team, dropping the record to 7-2. Houston improved to 8-1.
“In the end, the best team won,” Smith said. “You can’t make some of the mistakes we made early.”
The Bears’ offense and Cutler (7 of 14 for 40 yards with 2 interceptions) got off to their typically slow start in the first half.
But this time the quarterback wasn’t around to work his fourth-quarter magic, as he had in the first eight games while compiling an NFL-best 135.0 passer rating.
That’s because Cutler was watching from the sidelines with an injury he likely suffered on a hit with just less than three minutes remaining in the second quarter, although he played until the end of the half.
“He had symptoms at halftime,” Smith said. “He took a lot of hits, more than he needed to. He wanted to stay in, but the decision was made for him.”
Backup Jason Campbell helped get the Bears within 10-6 on a 45-yard completion that Brandon Marshall wrestled away from Jonathan Joseph at the Texans’ 10-yard line.
That set up Robbie Gould’s 24-yard field goal with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
On the Bears’ next possession, Gould’s 48-yard FG attempt failed when it hit the left upright.
The Bears’ defense, which was exceptional all night and allowed just 215 yards, led by linebacker Brian Urlacher, got the ball right back. But the offense was unable to move, giving it right back after three plays.
This time the Texans were able to take advantage of good field position with Shayne Graham’s 42-yard field goal with 4:49 left, which put them up 13-6.
“It’s tough when you’ve been sitting on the sidelines (all season),” said Campbell, an eight-year veteran with 70 NFL starts who had thrown 1 pass all season.
“You don’t get any reps during the week (as the backup), and it’s not like we were playing the 31st ranked defense. I tried to keep us in the game. I wanted to get the ball downfield late, but they did a good job of taking that away.”
Campbell completed 11 of 19 passes for 94 yards but, other than the one long pass to Marshall, he settled for checkdowns, and there was no fourth-quarter rally.
At least in the beginning, this game was not what most expected from a pair of 7-1 teams.
Yes, a steady drizzle fell throughout the game, but a combined 5 turnovers by the Bears and Texans in the first 16 minutes?
Once the Texans giveaways ceased after the teams traded field goals, the visitors grabbed a 10-3 lead with 4:14 left in the first half when Arian Foster made a diving catch of a Matt Schaub pass for a 2-yard TD.
The Bears threatened on the ensuing possession but Cutler’s second interception, and the Bears’ fourth turnover of the first half, killed the drive at the Texans’ 28.
Three plays earlier Cutler took a shot to the head from linebacker Tim Dobbins that resulted in a personal foul and probably the concussion.
The Bears came in leading the NFL with 28 take-aways, but it was the Texans who forced the first 2 turnovers and 3 in the first quarter, at damp, 54-degree Soldier Field.
Fortunately for the Bears, “The Hawk,” cornerback Tim Jennings, kept them in the game with his NFL-best seventh and eighth interceptions. The Texans had only turned the ball over a league-low six times before Sunday, and quarterback Matt Schaub had thrown just 4 interceptions.
Trailing 3-0 just 10 minutes into the game, the Bears went for it on fourth-and-inches from the Texans’ 43, and Michael Bush burst through the middle for 13 yards.
But it resulted in the second turnover when he had the ball popped out by Glover Quinn.
Six plays later Jennings responded with his first interception.
But three snaps after that, Cutler hit Texans safety Danieal Manning in the numbers at the Houston 5-yard line, and the former Bear returned it 5 yards.
Jennings’ second interception set up Gould’s game-tying, 51-yard field goal with 12:52 left in the first half.
On the Bears first play from scrimmage, Manning knocked the ball loose from tight end Kellen Davis and Houston settled for Graham’s 20-yard field goal with 8:13 left in the first quarter.
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