Early mistakes at Tennessee lead to Bears' third-straight loss
For everything the Bears did well on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, it seemed like three things went wrong.
Bad penalties and missed blocks ruined scoring chances. The defense held up well, but gave up a few big plays. It took a couple of late touchdowns for the Bears to make their 24-17 loss to the Titans seem close.
The final touchdown came with 1:04 left and the Bears didn't recover the onside kick. So they never seriously threatened after entering the fourth quarter down 17-0, but this was still a very winnable game. For evidence, the Bears outgained the Titans 375-228.
On their first drive of the game, the Bears failed on fourth-and-one at the Tennessee 34-yard line. After a successful fake punt in the second quarter, they couldn't convert a third-and-two.
"Our guys fought to the very end and that's who the guys are that we have in this locker room. They care," head coach Matt Nagy said. "What we have to understand as a mature football team is you have to score points early in this league."
To start the third quarter, the Bears lined up to go for it on fourth-and-one at the Titans 31-yard line. But they were flagged for two straight false start penalties and had to punt. The next drive ended with a David Montgomery fumble and 63-yard touchdown return by Desmond King.
"Right now we're in a situation where we're figuring out who we are and who we want to be," quarterback Nick Foles said. "It can be difficult, but I'll tell you this: The guys in the locker room after the game, their mindsets are about the team, about each other, about continuing to work for one another.
"Even with a hard loss, three (losses) in a row, we continue to stay positive. We keep working, we keep grinding and we stay positive."
The Bears knew they were in a bind even before they got on the plane. Injuries and positive COVID-19 tests piled up on the offensive line. They had to start Alex Bars, usually a guard, at center. Rookie Arlington Hambright made his NFL debut as the starting left guard, while Rashaad Coward slid from left guard over to right tackle. Two starters, remained in the lineup, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and right guard Germain Ifedi.
Another issue was rookie guard Lachavious Simmons tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling with the team to Nashville. Lineman Jason Spriggs and Cody Whitehair were already on the COVID list.
"You know what? They played as hard as they could and they gave me everything they had," Foles said of the offensive linemen. "That's all I can ever ask of them. I'm proud of them for that."
Foles was sacked three times and the run game produced just 56 yards on 20 carries. Another noticeable blocking failure happened when the Bears reached a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Foles faked a pitched and wanted to do a shovel pass to Allen Robinson. But a Tennessee linemen shoved Coward backward and Robinson crashed into both of them. Foles had to keep the ball for a loss.
Most of the postgame questions were along the lines of, "Why is the offense so bad and can it be fixed?"
"I don't have too many answers on that," Robinson said. "I just try to run what's called and make the best of my opportunities. That's all I can kind of do. I'm going to look in the mirror first and figure out what can I do to make this offense better. How can I get better myself?"
The defense did a nice job of keeping Derrick Henry, the NFL's leading rusher, in check. Henry finished with 68 yards on 21 carries. It was his second-lowest rushing output of the season and snapped a string of five straight games with a touchdown.
Roquan Smith led the way with 11 tackles, including a sack. But linebacker Danny Trevathan pointed out the defense failed to produce a turnover for the second straight game.
"I was proud that everybody was fighting," he said. "That's the kind of character we have. But at the same time, we can all do better. Probably make a turnover here and there. I know they're coming. Guys hold that stuff real personal. They're going to attack it next week. I'm excited to get back to work with them."
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