Bears’ defense has mile-high mountain of regret
by Mark Potash firstname.lastname@example.org December 11, 2011 10:46PM
Safety Craig Steltz zeroes in on quarterback Tim Tebow for a sack and forced fumble during the third quarter. | Justin Edmonds~Getty Images
Updated: January 13, 2012 8:17AM
DENVER — Losing is never easy. But it’s even tougher after you’ve been Tebow-ed.
‘‘It’s frustrating to be up 10-0 in the fourth quarter like that. There’s no excuse to lose that football game,’’ Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said after the Bears were victimized by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in a 13-10 overtime loss Sunday. ‘‘We made enough plays throughout the game. We just didn’t make them when they counted.’’
Teammate Lance Briggs was equally stumped to explain the stunning loss in much detail.
‘‘They made a play,’’ Briggs said of the Broncos forcing a Marion Barber fumble in overtime that cost the Bears a chance to kick a winning field goal and set up the Broncos’ winning drive. ‘‘They made a play with us in field-goal range. We were poised to kick the ball after that play [when Barber fumbled]. But . . . hats off to them.’’
The Bears were in control for most of the game. What was the difference in the fourth quarter?
‘‘We didn’t finish — that was the difference,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘We got into our cover-2 there at the end, and they kind of went down the field and scored on us. We just didn’t make plays when we had the chance to. That’s what it comes down to. And they did.’’
Hester comes through
Even out of sync, Devin Hester found a way to make a difference.
With several opportunities on punt returns, Hester seemed to be fair-catching punts he could have returned. But one he returned that probably should have been fair caught helped spark the Bears’ lone touchdown drive.
Taking a towering Britton Colquitt punt at his 32 near the right sideline in the third quarter, Hester looked like he was hemmed in for a loss when he retreated nine yards, twisted and turned and reversed field for a 26-yard return to the Broncos’ 42. Had he stayed outside instead of cutting inside toward the end of the run, he might have had a bigger return.
But it didn’t matter. The Bears drove 42 yards on six plays for Barber’s nine-yard touchdown that gave them a 7-0 lead.
‘‘Fortunately, I got an opportunity to get back to [the ball] and just tried to make a play to get the offense a good field position,’’ Hester said. ‘‘We knew that the key to the game was going to be field position. We knew both offenses weren’t going to make a lot of points, so at the end of the day this game came down to getting good field position and containing Tebow.’’
Robbie Gould kicked a career-best 57-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter that gave the Bears a 10-0 lead. His previous best was 54 against the Lions at Ford Field last season. The kick was a franchise record, too.
Gould, who was 0-for-2 on field-goal attempts of 50 or more yards in his first four years in the NFL, is 11-for-15 since — including 6 of 6 this season.
Playing in place of injured starter Major Wright, safety Craig Steltz forced Tebow into a rare turnover when he sacked him on a delayed blitz and forced a fumble that was recovered by Israel Idonije. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Steltz forced a scrambling Tebow to run out of bounds one yard short of a first down, leading to a Denver punt.
The Bears failed to covert their first six third-down conversions to give them a string of 17 before Barber gained two yards on third-and-one to set up a first-and-goal at the Broncos’ 9. Barber’s nine-yard run on the next play gave the Bears a 7-0 lead.
Overall, the Bears were 2-for-15. The offensive line didn’t help, as Chris Spencer and Lance Louis were each called for false starts on third-down plays.