Things couldn't have started any worse for the Chicago Bears in today's 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The team's first play on offense was a quick pitch to running back Matt Forte, who promptly put the ball on the ground, forcing Jay Cutler to dive on the pigskin for a 10-yard loss. Not surprisingly, the first drive resulted in a three-and-out.
The Saints turned around and put three points on the board.
On Chicago's second offensive drive, the first play was an off-set right, play-action bootleg. Yet the Saints blitzed safety Malcolm Jenkins from the backside and no one picked him up. He caught Cutler from behind and the ball again popped loose, only this time New Orleans recovered, which cost the Bears another three points.
Cutler was then sacked once on each of the next two series, which did not result in any Bears points. As a result, at the six-minute mark in the second quarter, Chicago was down 13-0, a deficit they could not overcome.
"They got us three times. It was a big three plays," Cutler said after the game.
The protection issues gave the Saints an insurmountable lead and Jermon Bushrod said much of it had a lot to do with the fronts New Orleans showed in the first quarter and a half.
"It was more mental than physical," said Bushrod. "We knew going into the game they had a whole bunch of different fronts. The played four down, three down, sometimes two down, put a linebacker over me, it was all kinds of stuff. We came out in the first quarter and there was a three-down front and they had people all over the place. It was a little tough to identify."
Blame can be spread around the entire front five, as not a single blocker played well in the early portion of the game.
"We made mistakes and it cost us. It cost us early," said tackle Jordan Mills. "We made a few mistakes and the blitzer came free and he got Jay and we lost."
After giving up just three sacks in the first two games of 2013, Chicago's offensive line has allowed six sacks the past two weeks, both losses.
"I've got to identify who the guys are that are coming and get the offensive line on the right people. It all falls on my shoulder," said center Roberto Garza. "They did a good job of scheming us. We had enough blockers, we've just got to get on the right people."
The good news for Chicago's offensive line is that they finished strong. The front five didn't allow a sack after the third drive, which helped the offense get into a rhythm. The Bears finished with 434 total yards on offense, compared to the Saints' 347, and converted 40 percent on third downs. Chicago also picked up 5.2 yards on the ground and Cutler did not throw an interception, finishing the game with a 128.1 passer rating.
"When we do go out there and block people, we see what kind of offense we can be," Garza said. "We're far away from being the offense that we want to be and are going to be, so we've just got to get better and not put ourselves in these situations."
Still, the positive second half is something on which the team can build heading into Thursday's game against the New York Giants.
"We were kind of getting in a little rhythm but we can't play catch up with a team like that," said Bushrod.
The first five drives aside, the Bears looked very good on offense. But by that point the damage had been done.
"Sometimes stuff like that happens," Forte said. "Nobody on this team is perfect, especially on the offense. Sometimes you make mistakes in the first quarter and the first drive. Stuff like that happens in football. The thing is you've got to respond from it."
We'll find out on Thursday how this team plans on responding.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.