Bears trampled by Rams; mistakes, poor ‘D’ lead to 42-21 loss
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter November 24, 2013 1:48PM
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Updated: November 24, 2013 8:28PM
ST. LOUIS — The Bears allowed more first-quarter points than they had since the Eisenhower administration, had three touchdowns wiped out by penalties and transformed two Rams running backs from Joe Blows into Jim Browns.
But what stung the most after their 42-21 loss Sunday wasn’t merely what had happened at the Edward Jones Dome; it was how they had kept up with the Joneses. The Lions lost, and the Packers and Vikings tied.
A victory would have put the Bears in sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
‘‘It was an opportunity to gain ground,’’ quarterback Josh McCown said. ‘‘And we missed it.’’
‘‘Coulda, shoulda, woulda,’’ guard Matt Slauson said.
One could attach five more hypo- theticals — one for every play it took the Bears to punch in a fourth-quarter touchdown from the 1-yard line. Two Rams penalties bailed the team out — the Bears eventually scored on a one-yard run by Michael Bush — but it encapsulated an ugly, mistake-filled game. The Bears were penalized 10 times for 85 yards.
‘‘We made too many mistakes on our side of it to have a chance at the end,’’ coach Marc Trestman said.
In front of 66,024 fans, the Bears (6-5) allowed Zac Stacy to gain 87 yards on 12 first-half carries before he left with a head injury. Backup Benny Cunningham had 109 yards on 13 carries, and wide receiver Tavon Austin had a 65-yard touchdown on his only run.
The Rams’ 258 rushing yards more than tripled the Bears’ 80, and their 8.9 yards per carry dwarfed their season average of 3.8.
‘‘If we even want to make the playoffs, we’ve gotta shore that up,’’ defensive tackle Corey Wootton said.
Aided by a fumble by Matt Forte on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage, the Rams scored 21 first-quarter points, the most the Bears had allowed since the Baltimore Colts tallied 27 on Nov. 4, 1958.
The Bears trailed 21-7 when McCown avoided a sack and threw an incomplete pass. Officials didn’t immediately whistle the ball dead, and players scrambled to pick it up.
That resulted in a fracas in which fullback Tony Fiammetta grabbed a facemask and guard Kyle Long was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Faced with third-and-22, McCown — who was 36-for-47 for 352 yards and two touchdowns — threw an interception that was overturned because of an illegal-contact penalty. With new life, the Bears drove 63 yards and pulled to 21-14 on a three-yard scoring pass from McCown to Brandon Marshall.
A 29-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein with 1:11 left in the second quarter gave the Rams a 24-14 halftime lead, and his 40-yarder in the third put them up 27-14.
With 14:54 left, Devin Hester returned a punt 62 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to have it called back because of a penalty on Craig Steltz.
The Bears didn’t score until 7½ minutes later — too late for a team that could have had the division lead to itself.
‘‘We’re upset about this loss,’’ McCown said. ‘‘But, thankfully, we can look up and go, ‘Y’know what? We’re still where we were before this game.’ ’’
That’s not necessarily a good thing.