Bears

Bears fall victim to another Broncos comeback

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Bears fall victim to another Broncos comeback

DENVER As the Bears lined up for a block attempt on Denver kicker Matt Praters 51-yard field goal in overtime, defensive tackle Henry Melton turned to safety Chris Conte in no small state of disbelief.

Birdman, Melton said, how did we ever get in this situation?

Melton may well have been speaking for the Bears season as well as Sundays 13-10 overtime loss to the Broncos. Just as he had from 59 yards with 2 seconds remaining to tie the game, Prater made his 51-yard kick, giving Denver its sixth straight victory, the Bears (7-6) their third straight loss, and their playoff hopes a possible death blow.

The defense, which had shut out Tim Tebow and the Broncos for 56 minutes, cracked and allowed 10 points over the final four minutes of regulation.

The offense twice had chances to win the game and failed, in the person of Marion Barber. The running back inexplicably stepped out of bounds after a carry with two minutes remaining, effectively giving the Broncos, who were by then out of time outs, 35 free seconds and a clock-stoppage.

The Broncos needed 50 seconds to drive for Praters tying field goal.

We have to know the situation, said coach Lovie Smith. In that situation we have to be able to keep the ball in bounds. Hell tell you that.

For Tebow, who turned himself around dramatically in the final quarter, the Barber blunder was an occasion for a different thought.

I might have thanked the Lord when he did that, Tebow said.

Barber, who had cost the Bears a touchdown in the Kansas City loss when he lined up improperly on what was a scoring pass to him, then compounded his mistake by fumbling the ball at the Denver 33 in overtime, well within winning-field-goal range for Robbie Gould.

That was turned into Praters second boot from 50-plus.

We just didnt finish, said linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Now it is the Bears who may be finished, however.

Costly defeat

The loss, before a Sports Authority Field crowd of 75,513, was nothing short of devastating in a season that was slipping away from the Bears over the past two weeks, since Jay Cutlers thumb injury and compounded by Matt Fortes knee injury.

The Bears are now looking up at both the Falcons and Lions after having control of their wild-card destiny at 7-3.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons slipped by the Carolina Panthers, results that gave the Bears two biggest wild-card rivals matching 8-5 records.

Only once (1979) in franchise history has a Bears team lost three straight games and advanced to the postseason. That team achieved the playoffs by virtue of winning its final three games for a 10-6 record.

All losses hurt. This one hurts, said linebacker Lance Briggs. Were getting closer to the end of the season. Weve got three games left theyre all must-win.

Eventful regulation

The Bears built a 10-0 lead through the end of the third quarter on a nine-yard touchdown run by Barber and 57-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. They appeared to have a win within their grasp before a collapse unlike many by the defense in the past couple of seasons.

Denver scored its first points of the game on a 10yard pass from Tebow to Demaryius Thomas with just over two minutes to play. Linebacker Nick Roach was able to gather in a bounding onsides kickoff.

The Bears were forced to punt, and Tebow and the Broncos, with help from the clock-stoppage on Barbers stepping out of bounds, had a chance for a winning score starting from their 20-yard line with 56 seconds to play.

Prater converted a 59-yard field field goal with two seconds remaining to tie a game in which the Broncos had never led.

Very special teams

Devin Hesters 26-yard punt return in the third quarter, twisting away from what was developing as solid coverage, set the Bears up at the Denver 42. The offense moved to a first-and-goal at the Broncos 9, from where Barber broke tackles and went in standing up with less than 6 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Those were the first points of the game and were followed by Gould converting the longest field goal in franchise history, a 57-yarder on the first snap of the fourth quarter.

A Julius Peppers second-quarter block of a 28-yard field goal try helped hold the Broncos scoreless in the first half.

Breakdown giveaways

The Bears did virtually nothing in a scoreless first half and the Broncos only slightly more as the two teams combined for 90 yards in the first quarter and 219 total for the half. The Bears had 84 total yards in the first half and was in Denvers end of the field for exactly one play in the entire first half.

Particularly disturbing for the Bears, the offense failed to convert on any of five third downs in the first half after an 0-for-11 effort in the loss to Kansas City.

After two three-and-outs, the defense created its own problems with a pair of major gaffes. The pass rush was non-existent on a third-and-16 to allow a 23-yard Tebow completion. And Lance Briggs was called for a late hit of Tebow to give Denver another first down.

The threat was ended with Charles Tillman made one of the more acrobatic interceptions of the season, going high for the catch of an apparent Tebow throwaway and twisting to get both feet down.

A possession later, Tebow converted a third-and-15 in the second quarter when containment broke down. Israel Idonije drew a roughing penalty for a low hit on Tebow on a third-and-8.

Despite four third-down conversions, the Bears avoided damage when Peppers and Israel Idonije blocked a short field goal midway through the second quarter.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: It's Packers week!

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: It's Packers week!

Adam Jahns, Chris Bleck and Jay Cohen join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Former MLB GM turned analyst Jim Bowden has some good news for White Sox fans. He believes that the South Siders are now the frontrunners to land Bryce Harper. Could this actually happen? And how much would his signing turn around the fortunes of the franchise?

7:00- It's Packers Week. The guys discuss how satisfying it would be for the Bears to clinch the division against their ancient rivals.

10:30- Mitch Trubisky returned after missing two games with a shoulder injury and threw three picks. Should fans be concerned? Could he hold them back from making the Super Bowl?

15:30- Jim Boylen gets a vote of confidence from his boss. John Paxson supports the extra practicing but is the Bulls president missing the players' point?

20:00- It looks like Joe Maddon might have another new coach on his bench. With Brandon Hyde heading to manage the Orioles, should the Cubs name David Ross their bench coach?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Focused on himself, Mitch Trubisky isn’t here to talk about Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers

Focused on himself, Mitch Trubisky isn’t here to talk about Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers

Mitch Trubisky had zero interest on Wednesday in fielding a line of questions about his high school nickname, which was bestowed upon him thanks to a comparison to a certain former Green Bay Packers quarterback. The days of him being “Favre” are, as he put it, in the past. 

“I’m done with that nickname,” Trubisky said. “No one calls me that anymore. I’m just focused on playing this week and doing my job.”

Trubisky clearly wasn’t thrilled with that line of questioning, and Matt Nagy didn’t entertain it, either. This is a Bears team with far more important things ahead of them as they stare down a game against the Green Bay Packers in which they can accomplish two season-defining things: First, clinching the NFC North; and second, effectively eliminating the Packers from playoff contention. 

Trubisky was sharply critical of himself after Sunday’s 15-6 win over the Los Angeles Rams, a game in which the Bears won but he had, by passer rating, the worst game of his career (33.3). He emerged Wednesday with a clear head about his bad game, citing sloppy footwork and an over-eagerness to be back on the field for the first time since Nov. 18. 

Rust from that layoff, Trubisky said, was not a factor. 

“I think that's just making excuses, saying that I could be rusty,” Trubisky said. “Bottom line is I just came out and I didn't make the throws that I needed to make. I didn't do my job necessary when my team needed me to do my job and I know that I can play better.”

The more specific root of Trubisky’s problem, he said, was trying to do too much against a Wade Philips defense that deployed plenty of zone coverage. That took away the opportunities for Trubisky to make a big play, but he tried anyway, sailing two throws for interceptions while getting picked off on an aggressive third-and-10 throw, too. 

Along those lines, too — the primetime Sunday Night Football stage wasn’t why he tried to do too much. It goes back to an over-exuberance for being back on the field for the first time in three weeks. 

“I should have just had a more focused mindset of, OK, I just need to do my job,” Trubisky said. “I just need to find completions. I just need to catch the snap, do my footwork and get the ball to my playmakers rather than being too amped up about being out there with my guys and trying to make all-world plays. I just need to go out there and do my job.”

This is about as encouraging of an explanation from Trubisky as possible, in a few ways. The issues had something to do with his layoff, but not necessarily rust. And they didn’t happen because the moment was too big for a guy who will play in a few more big moments come January. 

The word “shoulder” was also not mentioned during Trubisky’s media session, too. 

While Trubisky was clearly frustrated with play against the Rams, he made sure to note the most important thing from Sunday was the Bears emerging with a win. Adding to that, Nagy said Trubisky’s positive attitude didn’t waver on the sidelines, which is important to note. 

“He's the leader of this offense and the guys look to him for any frustration, any type of ability of him to not show leadership or any of that, we don't want it,” Nagy said. “He hasn't done it.”

The lasting impression from Trubisky’s media session on Wednesday was this: Focus. He came across as willing to not only engage in self-criticism, but willing to be specific about it (which, it should be said, is not uncommon for him this year). But anything general, or about a topic he didn’t think was relevant for this weekend’s game against the Packers? He didn’t have time for that. 

And, at least publicly, that presents as a quarterback frustrated with what he showed against the Rams, but focused on exactly what he needs to do to be better on Sunday against the Packers. 

The Favre thing is one example. How he answered a question about Aaron Rodgers — and what he might admire about him — is another. 

“I don't know, I haven't really watched much on him this year,” Trubisky said. “I’m really just focused on continuing to learn this offense and focused on what I got to do and my job this year. So just continue to learn and master this offense and focus on myself and my teammates. Obviously he's had a lot of success, but I'm just focused on what I got to do for my team this year right now.”