The NFL cliché is that all games are must-win and there is no such thing as a bad win.
But there are indeed “bad” losses and Sunday’s 17-15 loss to the Denver Broncos was very much one of those, a strangely inept performance, at home, after two road games, and “this one really stings,” said guard Patrick Omameh.
The sting was intensified because it came on a day when the Bears’ two primary rivals – Green Bay and Minnesota – were playing each other, meaning that either way, if the Bears won, they were going to gain ground on one and keep pace with the other.
It stings because since starting 0-3 with losses to good teams while they were still in a molten state themselves, the Bears have now lost three games that were theirs for taking with a play in a fourth quarter – which they failed to make against Detroit, Minnesota and now Denver. A team that had begun to pride itself on its identity as fighters and finishers did not do enough of either on Sunday.
“[The Broncos] are a good team but we let it get away from us,” said quarterback Jay Cutler, who checked out of the initial call to the run play that failed to punch in the tying two-point conversion with 24 seconds to play. “There have been a few games where we lost the fourth quarter and we have felt like we were right there.
“We put this game in the same box as those.”
Instead, the Bears are in a box now, despite sacking five times an opposing quarterback in Brock Osweiler making his first NFL start, and not being flagged for a single penalty, while being given 118 yards in walk-off’s by the Broncos.
Instead of putting themselves back at .500 and possibly even a game within Green Bay (the Packers and Vikings played after the Bears), they effectively took a giant step toward rendering extinct any real chance of winning their division and a playoff berth with it.
“We got a game in four days,” tackle Kyle Long said of playoff chances now. “Talk to me after that.”
Some focus will be on the decision of coach John Fox to eschew a field goal at fourth-and-goal from the Denver 4-yard line with 10 minutes to play. The play missed when running back Jeremy Langford was unable to get his feet under him for a leap at a high Cutler pass.
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Some focus will be on Cutler checking out of that initial call on the two-point conversion, with tight end Martellus Bennett appearing to run a pass route while safety T.J. Ward streaked around the Bears’ left side to bring down Langford short of the goal line. Some will be on a Bears defense giving up 170 rushing yards to a team averaging 86 coming in.
All of the second-guess’able specifics, however, don’t obscure the bigger, more dire reality.
“We needed to win today,” Tracy Porter said. “That just heightens the game for Thursday. We have to win that one as well just to keep our name in the hat. We're gonna need some help, but we can only take it one game at a time.
“This was one game that we didn't do the things that we needed to do."