Bears couldn't dig out of this hole
Finishing is not a problem for Marc Trestman's Bears,
But slow starts the past two weeks have undermined commendable comebacks.
For the second straight week the Bears bounced back strong in the second half. Also for the second straight week it wasn't enough to overcome a double-digit deficit.
Sunday's 26-18 loss to the undefeated New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field left the Bears at 3-2 and searching for ways to avoid the slow starts that have plagued them in back-to-back losses.
"We didn't make enough plays early in the game, and we put (our) defense in a bad situation," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "We left (our defense) on the field too long by going three-and-out.
"With the potency of the weapons they have over in New Orleans, we have to be on the field as long as we can."
Instead, the Bears' first five drives produced just 2 first downs. By then the Saints already led 13-0, en route to a 20-6 halftime lead and ultimately a 36:00-24:00 advantage in time of possession.
A week earlier the Bears trailed the Detroit Lions 30-13 at halftime of a 40-32 loss.
The Bears' second possession Sunday lasted just one play, a Jay Cutler fumble after a sack that gave the Saints the ball only 6 yards from the goal line -- although the visitors settled for a 19-yard field goal.
That was the first of 3 first-half sacks by the Saints. The Bears' quarterback also was credited with a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, although it was Matt Forte who dropped Cutler's pitchout.
Cutler recovered the ball for the Bears, but only after a 10-yard loss that led to a failed third-and-long.
"I've got to do a better job of getting us where we need to be protection-wise, and pointing things out, shoring us up," Cutler said of the early sacks, which were blamed on lack of communication. "They got us three times. It was a big three plays."
All 3 sacks, including 2 by safeties, came on blitzes that appeared to confuse the Bears.
But Cutler was not sacked in the second half, and he finished with a passer rating of 128.1, his best since last Nov. 4. He threw 2 TD passes and was not intercepted, while completing 24 of 33 passes for 358 yards, his most since the 2010 season opener.
Alshon Jeffery had a franchise-record 218 yards on a personal-best 10 receptions.
But it was all too little, too late.
"We got it going and protected him a little better -- again, after the first quarter," said offensive left tackle Jermon Bushrod. "We saw their looks and made the adjustments and we rolled with it and had some offensive success.
"But the hole that we put our defense in early on wasn't good. You can't give an offense like that short fields and let them have all the momentum. Our defense fought extremely hard. They gave us a chance, (but) we couldn't get it done."
The Bears' offense didn't get into gear until less than six minutes remained in the second quarter, when it had been outgained 146-51 and trailed 13-0.
Cutler directed an 80-yard drive on seven plays, reaching the end zone with 2:41 left on his 3-yard pass to Jeffery, whose 31-yard reception helped set up the score.
The Bears wound up outgaining the Saints 434-347, including 383-201 in the final 35:57, but they never were able to catch up after the slow start.
"I'm certainly disappointed in the way we started this game offensively, and that starts with me and accountability to get our guys going and going in the right direction," coach Marc Trestman said. "The first three series really hurt our tempo, our rhythm."
The Bears won't have long to lament the loss, as they host the 0-5 New York Giants on Thursday night, which could be the best medicine for a slumping team that has hurt itself with slow starts but continues to play hard for 60 minutes.
"There's no give up in this team," Bushrod said. "We're going to continue to fight. We'll continue to push. We're not going to sit there and just lay down.
"The fact that our quarterback can go out there and sling it the way he did and we can protect for him in those two-minutes situations, we just have to start earlier.
"We finished strong, but we didn't start fast."
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