The Bears had control of this afternoon's game against the Denver Broncos until about six minutes left, when everything suddenly went awry. The home team scored a touchdown with two minutes to play, making the score 10-7. The Bears recovered the ensuing onside kick, yet on 2nd down, RB Marion Barber failed to stay inbounds, costing the Bears more than 40 seconds on the game clock. The team was forced to punt, giving Tim Tebow a chance at another fourth-quarter comeback.
He drove his team into Chicago territory. Matt Prater then kicked a 58-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. Yet the Bears were driving in the extra frame and were in field goal range, when Barber fumbled and turned the ball over. Denver drove to the Chicago 34-yard line, where Prater booted a 51-yard game winner.
RB Marion Barber
The Bears fall to 7-6 and must now win out if they are to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs. With a trip to Lambeau to face the Green Bay Packers in two weeks, that seems unlikely.
Fortunately, the Bears came away from the game fairly unscathed, with no major injuries to report.
-Tebow started off the game completing just three of 16 pass attempts. Yet in the fourth quarter and overtime, he went 18 for 24. He made some nice throws but this wasn't a case of God intervening. It was the result of Chicago's defense, which had pressured Tebow and kept Denver's offense out of rhythm all day, playing soft during their last three drives. The Bears' safeties were playing 25 yards off the ball during Denver's only touchdown drive, which started with about six minutes left in the game. The Broncos dinked and dunked their way to a score, which brought them right back in the game.
Yet, even when Denver got within one score, the Bears did not resume the pressure that had held the Broncos scoreless through the game's first 54 minutes. On both the game-tying and game-winning drives, Chicago continued to drop everyone deep, allowing room underneath for easy completions. It's safe to say that, had the Bears stuck with the pressure scheme that had been working so well up until the fourth quarter, the club would be 8-5 right now.
-Yet all those bad coaching decisions would have been forgiven had Barber used his head. On second down, coming out of the two-minute warning, the Bears ran an off-tackle play that Barber, for some reason, bounced outside. He then cut outside again and ended up being pushed out of bounds. The clock stopped, costing the team at least 40 seconds. Had he stayed in bounds, Denver would have gotten the ball back with less than 20 seconds. Yet because Barber inexplicably ran out of bounds, the Broncos were left with a minute to play, which was just enough for them to set up a 58-yard field goal.
Then in overtime, the Bears ran a third-down play on the Denver 37-yard line. Robbie Gould had kicked a 57-yarder earlier in the game, so the Bears were in field goal range at that point. All they had to do was avoid turning it over. Barber ran up the middle and hit the hole with no one in front of him. For a second, it looked like he would go all the way. Then DE Elvis Dumervil reached in and stripped the ball out of Barber's hands. The Broncos recovered and the rest is history. These two huge mental mistakes cost Chicago the win.
-Caleb Hanie struggled for the third game in a row. He completed just 12 of 19 passes for 115 yards and no touchdowns. He wasn't accurate and missed a number of open receivers, although he did not turn the ball over. Yet he wasn't helped at all by the play of the offensive line. The Bears gave up four sacks in the contest. That makes 11 sacks allowed the past two weeks. Lance Louis again played poorly, as did J'Marcus Webb. It appears at this point the front five is not going to be able to overcome the loss of two starters.
-On offense, the Bears followed a sound game plan of running the ball early and often. Coordinator Mike Martz called 38 run plays, the most in a single game all season. While the line struggled in pass protection, they were able to open up a number of holes for Chicago's backs. The team gained 159 yards on the ground.
DT Henry Melton
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
-Earl Bennett, after establishing himself as the Bears' most consistent and dependable pass catcher, did not catch a pass today. In three games with Hanie under center, Bennett has caught just two passes for 10 yards. His underuse is borderline criminal at this point.
-Besides wearing down in the fourth quarter, and the coaches using prevent schemes late in the game, the defense had an outstanding performance. The creative Denver option offense couldn't do anything for most of the game. The Broncos did gain 124 yards on the ground, but most of those were Tebow scrambles.
-The defense picked up five sacks on the afternoon. Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and Craig Steltz all had one sack, while Stephen Paea had two. Melton now has 7.0 sacks on the season, the most by a Chicago defensive tackle since Tommie Harris in 2007. He also made a number of good plays chasing down ball carriers to the sideline. Since being called out by coach Lovie Smith a month ago, Melton has performed like a Pro Bowler.
-The Bears used both Steltz and Brian Urlacher to spy on Tebow, which worked very well. For most of the day, Tebow had no room to run.
-Charles Tillman made an outstanding interception grab in the first quarter. He cut under the receiver, snagged the ball over his head and then tiptoed both toes in bounds. He looked like a wideout on the grab.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.