Taxing 26-18 loss to Saints puts Bears ages from 3-0 start
CHICAGO — His team had lost by eight points for the second straight week — a late touchdown again falsely making the game appear close — when Martellus Bennett was asked if the Bears ran out of time.
“I think everybody in the world wishes they had a little more time, whether it’s to say goodbye or get one more chance,” the Bears tight end said after a 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints in front of 59,515 at Soldier Field. “But time is the only thing that’s constant for everyone. And it’s consistent. It’s 24 hours — but football is 60 minutes. So you can’t get more time.”
Time is stalking the Bears.
Eight days ago, they were undefeated. Today they’re losers of two straight with a Thursday night home game against the New York Giants drawing closer.
Time held Henry Melton out for the season with a torn knee, Stephen Paea out Sunday with turf toe and might rob the Bears (3-2) of a third defensive tackle, Nate Collins, who injured his left knee Sunday.
Time — or lack of it — cost them three sacks on their first eight pass attempts Sunday, a series of exotic rushes blitzkrieging them early.
After Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins sacked Jay Cutler, forcing a fumble — “I knew he was coming; I just thought we had him,” Cutler said — the Saints kicked their second field goal of the first quarter for a 6-0 lead.
The Bears “hadn’t really seen” the blitzes before, coach Marc Trestman said.
They got back into rhythm but never really recovered.
After the Saints’ Pierre Thomas caught the first of his two touchdowns, Cutler marched for a 80-yard scoring drive in the second quarter.
Alshon Jeffery, whose 218 receiving yards were a franchise record, caught a 31-yard pass on third down and, later, a three-yard touchdown pass to pull the Bears within six.
Thomas’ second score, a 25-yard screen 23 seconds before halftime, put the Saints up by 13.
The Bears “moved the ball well” in the second quarter, said Cutler, who completed 24 of 33 passes for 358 yards. But the Bears and Saints only traded third-quarter field goals.
Drew Brees kept the Saints’ offense on the field for three-fifths of the game, completing 29 of 35 pass attempts for 288 yards. His favorite target, tight end Jimmy Graham, caught 10 balls for 135 yards.
“It’s frustrating when they continue to keep the drive alive,” defensive end Julius Peppers said, “but we just gotta find a way to make a play.”
Bears wideout Earl Bennett dropped a sure-fire fourth-down conversion with 8:45 left in the game. Three plays later, linebacker Lance Briggs jumped offside on fourth down, continuing a drive that led to Garrett Hartley’s 48-yard field goal.
The Bears countered with a two-yard TD catch by Brandon Marshall with 2:11 left, set up by a 58-yard catch by Jeffery and punctuated by Matt Forte’s two-point conversion.
It wasn’t enough.
For the first time since last Nov. 19, the Bears’ defense failed to force a turnover. Their first-quarter stands made them tired late in the game, Trestman suggested.
“There’s a connection,” he said, “how things go during the course of a game.”