Missed opportunities doom Bears offense

The Chicago Bears moved the ball on offense in the regular-season opener, yet penalties and turnovers led to a surprising 23-20 home loss to the Buffalo Bills.

If Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett had his way, no Bears fan would lose any sleep over the team's opening-day loss to the Bills today.

"I'm not one to panic," Bennett said. "My wife occasionally panics about this or that, but me? Never happens."

While Bennett admitted that the 23-20 overtime loss was a contest characterized by lost opportunities for Chicago's offense, he feels the errors can easily be corrected.

Bennett scored early in the first quarter on a 12-yard pass from Jay Cutler, capping a four-play, 66-yard drive that looked very easy. Yet the 7-0 lead was short-lived, with the Bill answering on the following drive. The Bears then began shooting themselves in the foot.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall began the second quarter with a fumble at the Buffalo 28-yard line, which led to a 50-yard go-ahead field goal for the Bills.

On the following drive, quarterback Jay Cutler was intercepted on a pass intended for Bennett down the seam. It appeared to be a back-shoulder throw that Bennett never saw, resulting in the pick.

“Marty and I just need to get together and watch the film on that,” Cutler said after the game.

Cutler’s second interception came in the fourth quarter on a pass again intended for Bennett. After rolling left off a play fake, the Bills secondary swallowed up Chicago’s receivers. Cutler fired the ball back across his body to Bennett, who was undercut by defensive tackle Kyle Williams for the interception. The Bills parlayed that turnover into three points, giving them a 20-17 lead with a little more than four minutes to play.

"We bit ourselves", Bennett said. "There were injuries to starters [Roberto] Garza, [Alshon] Jeffery, [Matt] Slauson. They went down one after the other and had to be replaced with no time for us to regroup.Usually there is time to be on the sidelines and discuss a change of strategy but we were just out there play after play and never really caught up."

The Bears also hurt themselves with mental errors, racking up four penalties for 43 yards, all coming on pivotal drives.

"You can't go out there and beat yourself, then expect to win," Bennett said.

The Bears had 427 total yards compared to Buffalo’s 360 but the offense continually stalled drives with turnovers and penalties. Despite that, the offense did move the ball, which is something the unit can build on heading into the Week 2 contest against the San Francisco 49ers.

"These aspects of our game are all fixable and it’s definitely something that we will be working on in practice this week,” said Bennett. “We are hoping that the injured vets are back before the road trip this weekend, but if not, the other guys stepped up and played very well. At least going in this time, we'll have a better idea who our personnel will be going into that game."

Bennett sees today's loss as a learning opportunity.

"We all wanted to win the opener, that goes without saying, but we'll learn from what we did wrong. A lot of film study this week for sure. We started so fast today right out of the gate, a big score, but then we kind of killed ourselves for the rest of the game.

“There were a bunch of chances where we could at least have gotten a field goal but we let it slip by. Penalties, turnovers, they won that battle from us. Whether it was mistakes in the passing game or the running game, we got behind the chain most of the time.

“There's a bunch of road games coming up so we've got to get our stuff together right now. But that said, I don't look for help. I work hard every day. I put it on myself to get this done, to get it together. The offensive line does a great job for me and I try to be there taking advantage of the opportunities both they and Jay provide."

Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 14 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.

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