Bears play decent game, but interceptions doom dim playoff hopes

  • Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) leaps over Bears quarterback Andy Dalton after Baker intercepted a Dalton pass Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Soldier Field. Running with Baker is Markus Golden.

    Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) leaps over Bears quarterback Andy Dalton after Baker intercepted a Dalton pass Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Soldier Field. Running with Baker is Markus Golden. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/5/2021 5:09 PM

Run the ball and bleed the clock.

Go for it on fourth down whenever possible.

 

Try a trick play or two.

And DO NOT turn the ball over.

Do all of these things and MAYBE the Bears had a chance to beat the NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field on Sunday.

But go 3-for-4 and forget about it, especially when Andy Dalton blew Assignment No. 4 as badly as he did by tossing 4 interceptions. Arizona (10-2) took full advantage, returning the picks for a combined 121 yards en route to a 33-22 victory that all but sinks the Bears' playoff chances.

The crazy thing for the Bears (4-8) is that they actually played a decent game.

The offensive line paved the way for David Montgomery (21 carries, 90 yards) and Khalil Herbert (4-16) to rumble for a combined 106 yards. Dalton (26-for-41, 229 yards) took what was there (which wasn't much) and found Montgomery eight times for 51 yards.

The defense was up and down -- the Bears really could have used a stop after trimming the lead to 14-7 midway through the second quarter -- but you're asking an awful lot out of that banged-up unit when Arizona is setting up shop on the Bears' 28, 15, 28 and 12 after those 4 picks.

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The second INT really hurt as Cole Kmet had the ball pop in and out of his hands on third-and-6 from the Arizona 20. The pigskin floated right to Budda Baker, who blazed down the side line on a 77-yard return.

Five plays later it was 14-0 Cardinals.

At that point, you're thinking Game Over. No way do the Bears have what it takes to mount a comeback against the best team in the conference.

Yet, there they were trailing just 24-14 early in the fourth quarter.

An Arizona punt pinned the Bears back on their own 2-yard line, but if they somehow mount a scoring drive an upset is possible.

Impossible, right?

Well, as it turned out, yes.

But stick to what was working (THE RUNNING GAME!) and who knows?

Dalton started this drive with a 7-yard pass to Damiere Byrd, an incomplete pass and a 12-yard pass to Darnell Mooney. Herbert then went up the middle for 5 yards, setting up a second-and-5 from the 21.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Great. You're moving and have escaped the shadow of your own end zone.

Keep pounding away.

Instead, Dalton couldn't hit a tightly covered Mooney and then was sacked, seemingly ending the drive.

But no! An inexplicable roughing-the-punter penalty followed, miraculously giving the Bears new life.

Now it's Montgomery time, right? After all, he had 81 yards on 19 carries to this point.

Nope.

Instead, Dalton had a pass picked off after the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Although the Bears did come up with an impressive goal-line stand, the Cardinals all but put it away with a chip-shot field goal that made it 27-14.

So the Bears, who were once 3-2, have lost six of seven -- with their lone victory coming on a last-second field goal over the hapless Lions.

What's sad for the fans is Matt Nagy's squad could have beaten the Packers, 49ers, Steelers and Ravens. Instead, those teams executed at key moments and marched out victorious.

"The entire season has kind of been frustrating with the losses we've been taking," Montgomery said. "But I'm a fighter. ... I'm going to give it everything I've got."

Next week the Bears are on the feature card on the NFL schedule when they travel to play Aaron Rodgers and the 9-3 Packers on Sunday Night Football.

So the Bears better not lose their fight and lay down now. Otherwise an embarrassing TKO is definitely in their future.

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