Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Junior Galette (93) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. The Saints won 30-13. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
Updated: November 10, 2011 12:42PM
NEW ORLEANS — A reporter asking a coach or player to provide instant analysis of a game is like a cartoon character covering up a hole in the road with sticks and leaves and hoping his foil falls in.
Without the benefit of replay, context and the big picture, coaches and players don’t want to entrap themselves, although their gut reactions are usually accurate.
But the Bears seemed genuinely puzzled by how a three-point deficit early in the third quarter Sunday spiraled into a 30-13 bashing by the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome.
“It’s hard to say right now what really broke down and where we broke down,” Bears right guard Chris Spencer said, pausing for a moment. “All I know is, we broke down.”
Coach Lovie Smith simply said his team didn’t “play well enough.”
“That’s the simple answer to everything,” he said. “I can’t tell you why.”
With emotions charged after linebacker Brian Urlacher’s mother died last Monday, the Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The defense had a strong start, and the offense patched together an 11-play, 87-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter that was capped by an eight-yard touchdown pass to undrafted rookie receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.
But the Saints scored on the next four possessions to take a 16-7 lead.
The Bears rebounded with consecutive drives that ended with field goals by Robbie Gould.
And then the Saints pulled the rug from under the Bears.
Defensive end Turk McBride raced past tight end Kellen Davis, slammed into quarterback Jay Cutler and jarred the ball loose. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma recovered.
Five plays later, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Robert Meachem.
The Bears’ next offensive series stalled, and the Saints responded with a 14-play, 87-yard touchdown drive to take a 30-13 lead.
Usually under those circumstances, the losing team at least picks up garbage yards and scores some points. But the Bears regressed, most notably in pass protection.
Five of the six sacks of Cutler occurred in the fourth quarter.
“It was a long day out there,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘I don’t know how many sacks I took, but I had to throw a lot of balls away before I wanted to. The Saints were the better team. They rushed me hard and forced our offense to do things we didn’t want to do.”
In the first half, running back Matt Forte gained 49 yards on nine carries, although 42 of them came on one play. But in the second half, the Bears only had two runs — one from Forte (no gain) and one from backup Kahlil Bell (loss of one).
Forte, though, suggested that third-down conversions were the problem. The Bears converted only two of 12.
“Last week, we converted on third downs, no matter what it was,” Forte said. “This week, we didn’t, and that kills drives.”
One of the most costly was on third-and-10 with the Bears approaching midfield. Cutler dropped back and darted a pass to Sanzenbacher, who was playing in place of Earl Bennett (chest injury). But Sanzenbacher dropped the ball.
“I bobbled it a little bit, and I got hit,” Sanzenbacher said. “Those are the ones you have to bring in if you want to be successful in this league or in this game. That’s on me.”
With the Saints blitzing and attacking, the Bears’ offense couldn’t stay on the field. They had an astounding six three-and-outs, and Forte accounted for 67.5 percent of the team’s offense, or 166 net yards.
It was a costly game with Bennett, rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi and safety Major Wright unable to finish with assorted injuries. But the Bears will have to regroup quickly.
They host the 2-0 Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on Sunday.