Bears drop to 2-9 after 27-21 loss to Titans
The 2-9 Bears have lost in a variety of ways this season, but Sunday's 27-21 defeat at the hands of the 6-6 Titans was one that, quite literally, slipped through their hands.
Skillet-handed Bears receivers dropped 10 passes from quarterback Matt Barkley, who deserved better in his first NFL start. The two most glaring came on the Bears' final possession after they had roared back from a 27-7 deficit with 8:28 remaining.
Despite the drops, 5 of which came in the fourth quarter, Barkley moved the Bears to a first down at the Titans' seven-yard line with 47 seconds remaining and trailing by 6 points.
On first down, Barkley found Josh Bellamy wide open in the end zone and hit him in the hands. Touchdown, Bears win, right? Wrong. Bellamy dropped the ball.
"I just dropped it," he observed. "I'm beating myself up because I expect more out of myself. It's going to be tough, but I've just got to move on from it and turn the page. I feel I let myself down and my teammates, but hey, you've got to keep moving." On fourth down, Barkley, as he was hit from behind, squeezed the ball through a tight window into the arms of a sliding Deonte Thompson -- who dropped the ball.
"It was a tough day for our group," Thompson said in a massive understatement. "I have no idea (why). I guess it's just coincidence. This group doesn't drop balls."
All the evidence was to the contrary.
In attempting to divert blame from a group that played the ball like it was a live hand grenade, Bears coach John Fox noted that players like Bellamy and Thompson had not played much this season. Bellamy came in with 6 catches for 82 yards, and he added 4 receptions for 41 yards on 9 targets Sunday. Thompson started the day with just 2 receptions for 14 yards and added 5 catches and 44 yards, also on 9 targets.
With Alshon Jeffery serving a four-game suspension for use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs and Eddie Royal limited by a toe injury, the Bears were in next-man-up mode.
"There were a lot of different guys out there that haven't been in the position to catch or drop balls very many times," Fox said. "I know one of the guys in there, Marquess Wilson, was playing only his second game this season."
Wilson spent the first nine weeks on the physically-unable-to-perform list with a fractured foot. Despite 2 drops, he led the Bears with 8 catches and 125 receiving yards, including an 8-yard TD grab that brought the Bears within 27-14 with 8:23 left. Thompson caught the 6-yard TD that narrowed the gap to 27-21 with 3:06 remaining.
The furious comeback made the final failures more egregious.
With Jeffery out and tight end Zach Miller on injured reserve with a fractured foot, Cam Meredith was the Bears' top pass catcher active on Sunday but didn't play like it.
"We're disappointed in ourselves," said Meredith, who caught just 2 passes for 19 yards on 9 targets and had at least 3 drops. "We hold ourselves accountable." Barkley overcame a rough start to complete 28 of 54 passes for 316 yards. After throwing an interception in the red zone in the second quarter, and another in the end zone in the third quarter, he rallied. In the fourth quarter alone, the four-year veteran threw 33 passes and completed 18 for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Barkley was not sacked, as he got excellent protection from an offensive line that utilized backup guards Ted Larsen and Eric Kush in place of injured Kyle Long and Josh Sitton.
"He was better late than early," Fox said of Barkley. "But all-in-all, for the guy's first start with us, it was pretty good."
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