Matt Barkley could've been the hero.
In fact, he should've been the hero.
A case of the drops by Bears receivers overshadowed Barkley's career resurgence as the former USC standout rallied his team to the brink in his first career NFL start.
Barkley and the Bears came up just short Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, watching as Deonte Thompson couldn't come up with Barkley's fourth down pass in the back of the endzone.
Two plays earlier, Barkley hit a wide-open Josh Bellamy in the endzone, but the pass bounced off Bellamy's chest and fell harmlessly to the grass in the endzone for a crucial drop.
That was the fifth recorded drop by Bears receivers in the fourth quarter, but even with that, Barkley still tallied 210 passing yards and two touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the game.
Do the Bears receivers feel like they let him down?
"Definitely," said Marquess Wilson, who had 125 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, but also dropped an easy TD in the middle of the fourth quarter. "He gave us an opportunity at the end of the game to win. We just gotta make plays."
Barkley never once placed blame on his receivers or threw anyone under the bus. He took the high road again and again in his postgame press conference, pointing to the thumb at himself for mistakes instead of pointing the finger at his teammates.
"I feel like I let him down," Bellamy said. "I feel like I let myself down and my teammates down, but gotta keep going."
After the Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind Barkley's first NFL TD pass, the Titans rattled off 27 unanswered points to set the stage for a nearly-epic comeback.
Barkley had only 106 passing yards in the first three quarters and threw two backbreaking redzone interceptions, including one in the endzone in the middle of the third quarter. Even settling for field goals in that situation could've meant a tie game in the waning minutes instead of the Bears trailing by six with one final drive.
But he flipped a switch in the fourth quarter and had his team just seven short yards away from a victory with under a minute left.
"He's a fighter," Bellamy said. "He will fight to the end and give us everything he's got. He did a great job."
"Matt played his butt off," receiver Cam Meredith said.
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The Bears saw Barkley's confidence growing as the game progressed, winning over his teammates with his heart and grit at a time when half the team's starters are injured or suspended.
"Everything [was impressive]," Thompson said. "Just to rally back like that, with what our team is going through right now with a lot of guys injured and this and that — for him to come back and our team to come back like that in the second half, it's big."
Barkley missed some opportunities early in the game, showing some inaccuracy and rust, but his poise never wavered in the pocket, with teammates raving about his demeanor.
"That guy was cool, calm and collected in the pocket," tackle Charles Leno Jr. said.
With Jay Cutler possibly lost for the season and Brian Hoyer already done for the year with a broken arm, the 26-year-old Barkley will get a chance to continue to show what he's made of over the final five games of the 2016 campaign.
"I was thinking about that [ESPN] guy [Trent Dilfer] with the 'Dropping Dimes,' and I see Matt droppin' dimes all over the place," defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. "It was awesome to see a young quarterback — well, maybe not too young — getting his opportunity and putting his best foot forward."