Bears come up short against Washington

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comChicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould walks his team's sideline after missing a 50-yard field-goal attempt to tie the game against Washington at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, December 13, 2015.

    Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comChicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould walks his team's sideline after missing a 50-yard field-goal attempt to tie the game against Washington at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, December 13, 2015.

 
 
Updated 12/13/2015 6:49 PM

For the second week in a row, the Bears allowed an opponent that was 0-5 on the road to march into Soldier Field and get its first victory away from home.

There appears to be no home-field advantage for the Bears, who plummeted to 1-6 at Soldier Field, where they haven't won since Oct. 4.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As usual, Sunday's game was close, this time a 24-21 loss to Washington that dropped the Bears to 5-8. It was the ninth time in 10 games the Bears played a game that went down to the final seconds before the outcome was decided. But for the fifth time in those nine games, they came out on the short end.

"We don't have a large margin for error, and it's been kind of the same song for too many weeks," Bears coach John Fox said. "We shot ourselves in the foot at inopportune times, whether it was a play on defense, execution on offense, pass blocking, catching the ball or missing a (tackle)."

The Bears were guilty of all of the above and then some.

While Washington now sports a modest 6-7 record, the Skins will be no worse than tied for first place in the NFC East at the end of Week 14.

Each of the Bears' last five losses has been by 6 points or less. But close doesn't count in the NFL, and there's no guarantee that keeping it close will eventually lead to better things, as even Fox said when asked how a team snaps out of the close-but-no-cigar rut the Bears find themselves in.

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"I don't know if you do," said Fox with point-blank honesty. "All I know is you have to work harder and get better. It's not lack of effort, it's not lack of want-to. We're in positions to have an opportunity to win games, and we just come up short."

For the second straight week, normally reliable kicker Robbie Gould missed a key field goal -- a 50-yarder with 1:40 left that would have tied the game -- but there were plenty of other reasons for the Bears' latest loss at home to a mediocre team.

The Bears continue to look but not find solutions as to why they continue to start slowly and suffer from self-inflicted injuries. Sunday it was 7 penalties for 79 yards. Five of the infractions (for 40 yards) were on the offense, and another on special teams, all of which stunted drives or left the Bears in unmanageable down-and-distance situations.

Asked why the Bears moved the ball better starting with a 58-yard TD drive that ended with a 20-yard scoring pass to Alshon Jeffery and took just 52 seconds at the end of the first half, quarterback Jay Cutler said: "We weren't second-and-long and third-and-long. It makes it a lot easier."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cutler completed 19 of 31 passes for 315 yards, and his 117.0 passer rating was his second highest of the season. He also had a nine-yard TD toss to tight end Zach Miller, his fifth receiving score in the last six games.

But Cutler also lost a fumble when he was sacked after the Bears had reached Washington's 39-yard line in the second quarter, another reason the Bears didn't get on the scoreboard until there were 18 seconds left in the first half.

On its first possession of the second half, Washington went up 21-7, and it was tight end Jordan Reed who did the most damage to the Bears, as he did all day long. Reed's 32-yard catch got the drive going, and his five-yard TD catch ended it. The Bears tried multiple defenders on Reed throughout the game, but he beat them all. On 9 targets, Reed had 9 catches for 120 yards.

But again the Bears rallied. Two minutes and 18 seconds after the Cutler-to-Miller TD, they tied it at 21-21 on Matt Forte's seven-yard TD run that was set up by cornerback Kyle Fuller's interception and nine-yard return to the Washington 21.

But Washington retook the lead for good on a 47-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins on the third play of the fourth quarter.

The last five Bears losses have been by just 17 points, but that didn't seem to make anyone in their downcast lockerroom feel any better.

"I don't think this is who we are," Forte said. "But the only explanation is that we're here because of ourselves. There's no finger-pointing, or whatever. We haven't played well enough. It's on us."

Given their struggles in front of the home fans, maybe it's a good thing that the Bears travel for their next two games, at Minnesota and then Tampa. They've won three straight on the road, so maybe they can pull out of their slump.

"Sometimes you don't," Cutler said. "Sometimes you figure it out and find a way. It's not like we're far away. We're right there. As players we need to look at ourselves."

If they do, what they'll see is a 5-8 team.

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