Bears come close, but bad mistakes lead to OT loss
The Bears-Saints game on Sunday was like playing Ping-Pong over a deep canyon.
Plenty of back and forth, but always a few inches from disaster.
The Bears led 13-3, trailed 23-13 and eventually forced overtime. But they finally lost 26-23 on a Will Lutz 35-yard field goal with 1:36 left in OT.
There were good signs from the Bears offense, great stands by the defense and ultimately several baffling failures that turned this one into a painful defeat.
The most memorable was a costly 15-yard penalty on wide receiver Javon Wims for punching New Orleans safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson after a play.
Forget about the wisdom of punching a man who is wearing a helmet for a second. Wims was ejected and the penalty put the Bears into a 2nd-and-20 situation. On the next play, Nick Foles threw an interception to Marcus Lattimore. That miscue led to a field goal, putting the Saints ahead 16-13.
"Completely unacceptable," head coach Matt Nagy said. "That's not how we roll here and we'll be talking to him."
The television cameras caught Gardner-Johnson sticking his finger in the face of Bears receiver Anthony Miller on an earlier play. But the 15 yards was a tough punishment on his teammates.
"I've lost my cool before," defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said. "It's part of the game. If you want to be elite, you've got to be able to control some of those moments. You've got to be able to put whatever emotion you've got going on, put it in the pocket because your team means more. I understand things happen and we'll move forward."
For the Bears, Wims losing his cool was only the start of the lowlights. On the previous drive, the Bears got a delay-of-game penalty on 3rd-and-4, then Foles was sacked on the next snap, setting up New Orleans' tying field goal.
And while the defense stood its ground several times in the red zone, the Bears allowed the Saints to cruise 68 yards late in the first half and hit a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook with three seconds left before halftime.
"That's what bothers me and (ticks) me off, that there is that issue still going on, and excuse my French," Nagy said. "I'm struggling with that right now. That has to change."
Nagy was agreeing that a lack of discipline seemed to sink the Bears at times on Sunday.
"I'm just going to continue to go back. I am really, really bothered by that third-quarter incident," Nagy said, referring to Wims. "That bothers me. I'm being completely honest with you guys, it bothers me.
"I am proud of the guys that played hard. I'm proud of the guys that were selfless and tried to everything they could to help us win."
With everything that went wrong, there were times when the Bears seemed to break through on offense. They hit their longest pass play of the season -- a 50-yard bomb from Foles to rookie Darnell Moody -- while David Montgomery broke loose for a 38-yard run. His previous long run this fall was 23.
And trailing 23-13 in the fourth quarter, they rallied with a 3-yard TD to Mooney with 3:32 left, then a tying 51-yard field goal into the wind by Cairo Santos with 13 seconds left.
The Bears only had one possession in overtime and it included 2 sacks. When New Orleans got their second chance in OT, Alvin Kamara broke loose for a 20-yard run to set up the game-winner.
"We talked about cutting it loose and just having fun and not playing tight," Nagy said. "There were a lot of times in that game, I felt, that we were doing that."
The Bears played without center Cody Whitehair due to a calf injury, so undrafted rookie Sam Mustipher got his first NFL start. Right tackle Bobby Massie left with an injury and was replaced by Jason Spriggs, leaving the offensive line without three usual starters.
When the Bears offense was sputtering, Fox television analyst Troy Aikman and probably many others wondered aloud what it would take to get Mitch Trubisky back on the field. Trubisky did come in for one planned play in the first quarter and ran for 2 yards.
Foles finished 28-of-41 for 272 yards, 2 touchdowns and the one interception. He usually sounds like a motivational speaker in his post game news conferences and Sunday was no exception.
"I think the only way to be in this situation is positive and learn and be there and believe," Foles said. "When you do that, amazing things happen. That's how I'm looking at it, believing that we're building something.
"We haven't made it easy for ourselves, but I do believe this is a really great locker room and a special locker room. We're bonding and we're growing and you can do something with that. I'm excited for what the future holds for this team."
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