CHICAGO – For once, the Bears’ defense deserved the bulk of the blame for a loss.
But in a role reversal that was every bit as rare as a sun-splashed, 60-degree afternoon in December, it was the Bears’ offensive players who came to their teammates’ defense.
“We win as a team and lose as a team,” running back Matt Forte said as his teammates dressed and departed from a quiet locker room. “So, that ‘blame game’ stuff, I don’t even listen to it.”
Forte might want to cover his ears today.
The Bears (8-4) blew a fourth-quarter lead and squandered a last-second, game-tying field goal in a 23-17 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks (7-5). The defeat dropped the Bears into a tie with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North with four games remaining in the regular season.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said the responsibility for the loss started with him. He watched from the sideline as the Seahawks gashed the Bears’ defense for a 97-yard touchdown drive on their final series of regulation and an 80-yard touchdown drive on their first series in overtime.
The final blow came in the form of a 13-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice. Wilson scrambled to his left to buy time while the Bears’ defensive line failed to keep pace, and Rice crossed the goal line as safety Major Wright delivered a vicious hit.
“That hasn’t happened to us very often around here,” said Smith, whose team has lost three of four games after a 7-1 start to the season. “Terrible job I did getting our football team ready.”
Few would argue, although the Bears’ problems go beyond preparedness.
Hard losses elicit hard questions, and the Bears face plenty of those as they prepare for a final four-pack of games that include one meeting apiece against each of their NFC North rivals.
Why did Smith bypass a 32-yard field-goal attempt for a failed play on fourth-and-1 with the Bears leading by a touchdown in the second quarter? The no-frills play call – a run up the middle by Michael Bush – resulted in no gain and a turnover on downs.
What about the lack of defensive adjustments by the Bears as Wilson and the Seahawks moved the chains late in the game with a repetitive read-option play that typically is used in college?
And as injuries affected three more starters on defense – Tim Jennings (shoulder), Brian Urlacher (hamstring) and Chris Conte (illness) – how much stamina do the Bears have left?
As for his call on fourth down, Smith said, he regretted the move.
“We should have taken the field goal,” Smith said. “It felt like we had momentum. [I] wanted to really try to knock them out and get them on their heels a little bit.”
As it turned out, a 56-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall and a 46-yard field goal by Robbie Gould as time expired in regulation served only as a brief buffer between Seahawks’ scoring drives.
Star of the game: Russell Wilson, Seahawks, 23-for-37, 293 yards, 2 TDs
Up next: Bears at Vikings, noon Sunday
TV/Radio: Fox/780 AM