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Surprise looks, early mistakes too much for Bears to overcome

Updated: November 8, 2013 6:26AM



The Bears were ready for whatever New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was about to throw at them Sunday.

‘‘We knew going into the game they had a whole bunch of different fronts,’’ left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. ‘‘Four down [linemen], three down, sometimes two down and put a linebacker on me. All kinds of stuff.’’

And then the game started.

‘‘He definitely caught us by surprise,’’ Bushrod said after the Bears’ 26-18 loss at Soldier Field. ‘‘They disguised different looks and brought us different looks — some things that we couldn’t pick up.

‘‘We came out in the first quarter and they were in a three-down front and they had people all over the place. It was tough to identify who we wanted to identify. There were some looks [where] if you ID one person, they would bring somebody else. We cleaned it up well. We had a plan after the mistakes happened.’’

By then it was too late. As it turned out, those early mistakes beat the Bears. On their first play from scrimmage, running back Matt Forte muffed a pitch and quarterback Jay Cutler recovered the loose ball for a 10-yard loss that led to a punt. On the first play of the Bears’ second possession — with Eben Britton lined up on the right side as a tackle-eligible — Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins came clean on a blitz from the left side to sack Cutler and force a fumble that the Saints’ Cameron Jordan recovered at the Bears’ 6-yard line.

‘‘Honestly, we didn’t have enough men to pick it up,’’ Bushrod said of the sack/fumble that led to a Saints field goal and a 6-0 lead. ‘‘They had pressure on both sides, and we didn’t know which way they were going to go. So we went to one side, and they brought it on another.

‘‘It was something we weren’t familiar with. When you’re not familiar with something, you get out there, you kind of get . . . not rattled, but it catches you off guard.’’

It was that kind of day for the Bears’ offense. They arguably were the best first-quarter team in the NFL through the first four games, scoring an NFL-high 41 points (a touchdown better than the next-highest-scoring team) with no sacks allowed. Even when they didn’t score, they established continuity and rhythm, avoiding the penalties and turnovers that had put them in so many holes in 2012.

But they looked like the old Bears against the Saints. They had two fumbles, allowed two sacks and gained 14 net yards on 10 plays in the first quarter and were lucky to trail only 6-0.

It was a little disconcerting for an offense that appeared to be making steady progress under coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. It looked like a step backward.

‘‘Sometimes stuff like that happens,’’ Forte said. ‘‘Nobody on this team is perfect, especially on this offense. Sometimes you make mistakes in the first quarter and the first drive. Stuff like that happens in football. You have to respond to it.’’

To their credit, the Bears shared the blame for the early discombobulation.

‘‘I’ve got to do a better job of getting us where we need to be protection-wise and pointing things out,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘They got us three times. It was three big plays.’’

Said Forte: ‘‘Too many mistakes all the way around. The first carry, I took my eye off the pitch and dropped it. What else? Sacks. I missed a couple of protections. I could have played better.’’

Added veteran center Roberto Garza: ‘‘[Ryan] did a good job of scheming us. But I had to identify which guys are coming and get the linemen on the right people. It falls on my shoulders.’’

The correct answer is that it starts at the top.

‘‘[I’m] disappointed in the way we started this game offensively,’’ Trestman said, ‘‘and that starts with me and accountability to get our guys going the right direction. The first three series really hurt our tempo.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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