New Season, Same Story

LANDOVER, Md. - The Bears gave an honest assessment of Sunday's 9-7 season-opening loss to the Washington Redskins.

There was no need. Despite a new season, a different offensive scheme, and more offensive weapons, it was obvious to all involved that they had just produced something far short of a work of art -- one which very closely resembled the way many of last year's losses looked.

"The defense and special teams gave us opportunities to win the game, but the offense just didn't make the plays in the second half to win," tight end Desmond Clark said.

Instead of a trio of forgettable quarterbacks struggling to replace injured quarterback Rex Grossman, rookie Kyle Orton filled this role by completing 15-of-28 for 141 yards and making big mistakes at critical moments. It was to be expected because of his inexperience, but they were no less harmful than those made by last year's clown car of quarterbacks.

"We stopped ourselves today, half the time," said Orton.

An offense which was worst in the league last year couldn't run the ball against Washington, as Thomas Jones was held to 31 yards on 15 carries and Cedric Benson barely got a sniff with three tries for 10 yards.

The passing game worked hand in hand with the rushing game by averaging only 4.0 yards per attempt.

"I guess it was a little better than last year -- that's not enough," said wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. "That's not enough. I'm definitely not satisfied."

Their 166 net yards was worse than all but two efforts turned in by former coordinator Terry Shea's offense.

Worse than shrunken numbers was the timing of their offensive mistakes, and most revolved around the rookie quarterback.

They trailed 9-7 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter and had the ball at the Washington 22-yard line when Orton tried throwing to Muhammad on a crossing route. He threw into a tight zone coverage and former Bears linebacker Warrick Holdman tipped the ball downfield into the air. It wound up in the arms of linebacker Lemar Marshall for an interception. Thus ended the Bears' longest drive of the game at 36 yards.

"I shouldn't have thrown it," Orton said. "I should have checked it down, especially when we were in field goal position.

"First down and 10, and I just should have just taken a checkdown on that."

The rookie wasn't the only one who imploded on offense. Orton had hit Bernard Berrian on a crossing pattern for a 9-yard gain to Washington's 34-yard line with 8:20 left in a 9-7 game.

Jones lost a yard on a run, then on successive plays tackle Fred Miller, then tackle John Tait and then Ruben Brown got flagged for false starts. With each successive penalty the 90,138 in FedEx Field got louder. There hadn't been this much noise in Washington since Congress last voted itself a pay raise. A sack ensued and the Bears wound up punting after failing to convert third-and-38.

"That was tough," Orton said. "We were probably within 10 yards of field goal distance and just kind of came unglued there a little bit."

"The crowd was loud the entire time," pointed out coach Lovie Smith. "And that's on us. We have to concentrate a lot better than that. And you have to be able to sit there in critical situations like that(until the ball is snapped)."

Their last chance ended with a sack by defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. He stripped Orton of the ball and recovered it with 1:32 left at the Bears' 15-yard line.

Much like last season, the Bears' defense and special teams did just about enough to win the game.

They won the turnover battle, 3-2, as Nate Vasher picked off a pass in the first quarter and Lance Briggs forced a Patrick Ramsey fumble with a clothesline tackle which Tommie Harris recovered at the Bears' 19 in the second quarter -- a play which shook Ramsey up and ended his day.

"On the defensive side of the football, the turnovers, that's good getting the turnovers, but they were able to run the football too much on us, similar to how they did last year," Smith said after Clinton Portis gained 121 of the Redskins' 164 rushing yards on 21 carries. "We have to be able to tighten up our run defense."

The offense got teed up for its only score by special teams. Brendon Ayanbadejo forced a fumble and Joe Odom recovered on the second half kickoff.

Six plays later Orton found Justin Gage for a 9-yard pass on third-and-eight to the 1 to set up Jones' 1-yard TD run for a 7-6 Bears lead.

But the defense made its share of small mistakes, and one of them might have been knocking out Ramsey. Brunell went 8-of-14 for 70 yards and did just enough to keep the chains moving with a 38 percent third-down conversion rate (6-of-16) and a few big strikes. His play, combined with Portis' runs gave Washington a 34:15-25:45 time of possession edge -- another sorry situation which harkened back to last season.

"Our offense can't score if they don't have the ball," safety Mike Brown said. "I don't know what the time of possession was, but I think it was pretty lopsided."

Mike Green's 36-yard pass interference penalty gave John Hall a chance for the game's first score, a 40-yard second-quarter field goal.

He made a 43-yarder with 1:05 left in the first half after Brunell hit Chris Cooley with a 23-yard pass to the Bears' 29 to give the Redskins a 6-0 halftime lead.

The Bears' defense got nickel-and-dimed by Brunell, Portis and running back Ladell Betts for a 63-yard third-quarter drive that ended with Hall's 19-yard field goal for the winning points.

Defensive players were beating themselves up after the loss for giving up the three field goals.

"Regardless of what the defense says, the other team scored only nine points today," Muhammad said. '"We were in the red zone a couple times and didn't come up with the win.

"You just can't play that bad (on offense) and win games. I think we're a young offense and we're struggling a little bit. Our defense is good enough to keep us in the ballgame but at some point in time you're going to have to give them some help."

It's been 17 games and five quarterbacks since this coaching regime took over and it hasn't happened yet.

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