Bears so close and yet so far
By Nate Johnson
In the end, it came down to two yards standing in the way of the Chicago Bears going into their Thanksgiving prime-time matchup with the Green Bay Packers with an even 5-5 record. Unfortunately, rookie running back Jeremy Langford was unable to convert a two-point conversion after the only Bears touchdown of the day as they came up short 17-15 to the visiting Denver Broncos.
Facing the league’s best defense would have been a challenge for the Bears with a full offensive compliment, but injuries continued to plague the team. Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, and Eddie Royal all were inactive for the game and one of the rookie backs carrying Forte’s load, Ka’Deem Carey, left in the third quarter with an apparent concussion.
For three periods, it appeared that the team might be doing just enough to pull off the win in coach John Fox’s first meeting with his former team since he was seen out in January. The defense sacked rookie quarterback Brock Osweiler five times, Jay Cutler spread the ball well between seven different receivers, and the team managed to go the length without a penalty for the first time in almost twenty years.
Once the fourth quarter hit, things went downhill.
Cutler turned the ball over twice in the final period, throwing an interception on an errant pass meant for Marquess Wilson, and getting stripped by Von Miller as the Bears marched towards Denver’s end zone.
A final opportunity presented itself as Chicago took possession for the last time with two minutes remaining. A series of mid-range passes by Cutler and a defensive pass interference call on a ball meant for Martellus Bennett took the Bears to the two-yard line before Langford charged over the line for his third rushing touchdown in as many weeks.
“On the two-point conversion, I have to do a better job of getting two yards,” said Langford. “We have to come back, regroup and do better next time.”
Down by two, Fox had no choice but to leave his offense on the field for the two-point attempt. The play was doomed from the start as Cutler checked to a run play, which appeared to catch other personnel off-guard. Langford was stopped immediately and the team was left with nothing more than an ill-fated onside kick attempt.
“Our margin for error isn’t that great,” Cutler said after the loss. “We’ve got to play pretty good football for four quarters and we’ve got to play really good football in the fourth quarter. In the games that we’ve won, we figured out a way to do that. In the games that we’ve lost, we haven’t.”
Making his first career start on his 25th birthday, Osweiler came out on the first Denver possession of the game and found a wide-open Demaryius Thomas for a 48-yard touchdown pass. That would be his only score of the game, as he balanced some nifty play action that frequently found the Chicago defense out of place with some clunky stretches.
Despite the five sacks, including the first in the career of rookie defensive back Adrian Amos, this was the first time in five games that the Bears were unable to force a takeaway.
The Bears have a short turnaround, heading to Green Bay on Thursday night for the 192nd episode in the storied rivalry.
“How much you work as far as the pads, the intensity of the work, I think has to be minimized,” said coach John Fox. “Otherwise guys won’t have time to recover.”
The offense could again be well short-handed as Bennett, Carey, and Royal all missed practice on Monday and Forte, Jeffery and Wilson were all limited. After a recent stretch of underwhelming performances, the Packers bounced back on Sunday to beat the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, 30-13, to regain a share of the NFC North lead.
A couple roster moves saw the Bears cut quarterback Jimmy Cutler and call up David Fales from the practice squad. League sources had a team lurking around the second year pass thrower, likely the Ravens.
Chicago also activated first round pick Kevin White’s 21-day practice window, giving the team three weeks to decide whether to activate him for the rest of the season. White has been out since June’s OTAs with a stress fracture in his shin.