NEW ORLEANS — There were three key plays that were critical in swinging the Bears’ 20-12 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
— Kyle Fuller was flagged for being offside on what would’ve been a 32-yard Saints field goal. Instead, New Orleans got a first down and promptly scored the first touchdown against the Bears’ defense since Oct. 9 on Alvin Kamara’s eight-yard run. That swung four points in the Saints’ favor.
— Connor Barth missed a 48-yard field goal wide left late in the first half. The Bears should’ve done better to not put Barth in that situation — after getting to the 22-yard line with just over a minute left in the second quarter, Tarik Cohen lost three yards on a run, Mitchell Trubisky threw incomplete and then lost five yards when he was sacked. Getting in the end zone before halftime would’ve been big, but not getting those three points was another blow.
— Then there’s Zach Miller’s overturned touchdown, which unlike these previous two plays, was hardly something the Bears could control. Miller — who suffered a gruesome-looking leg injury on the play — appeared to make a catch on a perfectly thrown ball by Trubisky, and it was ruled a touchdown on the field. The play was put under review as Miller was being carted off, and it was overturned. It’s either a bad rule regarding a catch or a bad decision by the league’s replay officials (there’s nothing else Miller could’ve done while suffering that awful injury). Either way, the Bears had to settle for a field goal, missing out on four points in the process.
You can point to Miller’s overturned touchdown being the difference between 17-12 and 17-17 (had it stood, the Bears wouldn’t have needed to go for two on Cohen’s one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and could’ve tied the game with a PAT). But the point here is the Bears don’t have much margin for error to overcome a questionable officiating decision.
Credit needs to be given to Vic Fangio’s defense for holding the Saints to six points in the second half and forcing two fumbles (Jonathan Bullard and Adrian Amos). Those fumbles gave the Bears’ offense a chance, but Trubisky couldn’t lead a game-winning drive after being given the ball by Amos’ strip on his own 30-yard line with just over two minutes to go. The Bears had two downs to pick up a yard and get a first down around the two-minute warning; Trubisky threw incomplete on both passes, then effectively ended the game when he was picked off by Marshon Lattimore on the Bears’ next offensive possession.
The limitations of the Bears’ offense remain clear — especially as the offensive line was uneven after losing Kyle Long (hand) and Cody Whitehair (elbow) on Sunday. A rookie quarterback making only his fourth career start with an inconsistent-at-best receiver group struggled to move the ball, though again, the defense proved it can keep things close to the best of its ability. But those early mistakes were what really came back to bite the Bears on Sunday.