Squib Kick Idea Still Haunts Bears

Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears has been called one of the best Monday-to-Saturday head coaches in the NFL. However, some of his choices on game day have been incredibly questionable. One of them cost his team a win against Atlanta on Sunday. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

The Bears might be worse than the White Sox bullpen when it comes to holding a lead, but at least they're not whining that they could be 6-0 considering their three losses are by a total of eight points.

"Whether we accept it or not we're still 3-3," defensive end Alex Brown said, "so we have to move on."

Sunday's collapse in the final 11 seconds at the Georgia Dome was the Bears' most dramatic but just the latest in three come-from-ahead losses in five weeks. Prior to the 22-20 heartbreaker, they blew a 24-14 lead with 3:12 left at home against the Buccaneers on Sept. 21. A week earlier, they squandered a 17-3 lead late in the third quarter on the road against the Panthers. The latest failure to finish was the most stunning since it happened so quickly.

Wide receiver Rashied Davis, whose 17-yard TD grab put the Bears ahead 20-19 with 11 seconds left, was asked if he had ever seen such a drastic reversal of fortunes even during his four years in Arena Football, which often resembles a human pinball game.

"Um, no, no," Davis said. "Not even in Arena, when you can score 28 points in the last minute."

Davis also chose not to lament the losses of 3, 3 and 2 points or to wonder what could have been. But he warned that if the Bears continue to let close games slip away, they can forget about any postseason plans.

"We are a 3-3 club," he said. "There's no solace in being close at the end of these games. We lost. We will be out of the playoffs if we keep losing games by 1, 2 or 3 points. We're a 3-3 team, but we're going to go out here and fix the mistakes that we made and move forward."

The good news for the Bears is that they are at home against the 3-3 Vikings on Sunday and have a chance to move into sole possession of first place in the mediocre NFC North. The Packers, also 3-3, host the resurgent 3-2 Colts.

S Mike Brown
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"It is what it is," safety Mike Brown said. "We could feel like we're better, but what's the saying? You are what your record says you are. We're a .500 football team. It's still in our control."

To maintain control, the Bears will have to avoid the critical mistakes that resulted in the loss to the Falcons.

Even head coach Lovie Smith admitted there were costly blunders, including Robbie Gould's squib kickoff with 11 seconds remaining that was fielded by the Falcons at the 34-yard line and returned 10 yards – using up just five seconds.

Gould admitted after the game that his kick needed to at least reach the 20, and Smith agreed. The Bears could have also chosen to kick deep and cover better than they had on the previous kickoff, which was returned 85 yards by Jerious Norwood.

"We need to get a little bit more production from it," Smith said of the last kick. "If I had to do something over again, I feel like I could have helped our team a lot better if we'd have just kicked the ball off deep."

Then there was the 26-yard Matt Ryan pass to Michael Jenkins that also used up just five seconds, leaving one tick for Jason Elam's 48-yard field goal. Smith didn't second-guess the Cover-2 defense the Bears employed on that play – just the execution.

"That's the coverage that we like to run in that situation," Smith said. "We didn't execute it exactly the way we need to."

The Bears aren't trying to convince anyone they're better than .500, but they have a chance to prove it against the Vikings.

"We've had opportunities to win the three games that we've lost," Smith said. "But I think your record is what you are. We're a 3-3 team that's on top of our division with important games coming up."

Four of the Bears' next six games are against NFC North opponents.

Notes & Quotes
With just three weeks in a new system, Bears cornerback Marcus Hamilton was put into a difficult position Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome.

Injuries to four other defensive backs forced him into the starting lineup in the second half, while Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was completing 8 of 11 passes for 142 yards. Hamilton, a first-year player who was cut by the Bucs after Week 3, said he felt like the Falcons were picking on him.

CB Charles Tillman
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"That's what they're supposed to do," he said. "That's what any team would do, so that wasn't a factor. That wasn't an issue."

Ryan's 26-yard pass that set up the game-winning field goal as time expired sailed over Hamilton's head and in front of safety Mike Brown.

"I just didn't sink deep enough, and they threw the ball over the top," Hamilton said. "When [the secondary receiver] came into the flat, probably about six or seven yards deep, going to the sideline also, I tried to play between them and he put it right over the top."

Depending on the severity of Charles Tillman's shoulder injury – he left the locker room with his arm in a sling – and if Nathan Vasher (thumb/wrist) can't return next week after missing two games, Hamilton might be playing a bigger role in the future.

"I'll be able to bounce back," he said. "I'm getting in the playbook, knowing the defense and I will be able to rock and roll from there." …

The slew of injuries in the Bears' secondary also impacted special teams, which employ many defensive backs in their coverage units.

"It's huge," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "But that's what happens. You get guys injured, and other guys have to step up. We had guys playing positions that normally they wouldn't, but that's just the way it is on special teams."

That may have been a factor in the Bears deciding to squib the final kickoff instead of kicking deep. On Robbie Gould's previous kickoff, Jerious Norwood returned it 85 yards to the Bears' 17.

"The kickoff before, we kicked it deep, and they were able to get a long run," head coach Lovie Smith said. "The guys were a little bit tired, so we felt like a squib would be safe to get them down and they would have a chance at maybe one more play. If we keep it in play, the game should be over." …

The Bears appeared to have stopped the Falcons at their 29-yard line when Tommie Harris recovered a fumble by Norwood. But as Harris tried to get up and run from a prone position, he fumbled the ball back to the Falcons, who got a fresh set of downs and eventually a 32-yard field goal by Jason Elam.

"I was getting up because I didn't hear a whistle," Harris said. "I was laying down there and nobody blew a whistle, so I was getting up. I didn't have two hands on it. I laid on it, and when I got up it slipped out of my hands."

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