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Bears try to take heat off Marion Barber

Running back MariBarber fumbles ball overtime against Broncos who recovered went wgame. | AP

Running back Marion Barber fumbles the ball in overtime against the Broncos, who recovered and went on to win the game. | AP

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Updated: January 14, 2012 8:19AM

When New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez called a timeout that eventually gave New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady enough time to engineer a touchdown drive at the end of the first half of the Patriots’ 37-16 victory last month, Jets coach Rex Ryan called Sanchez’s timeout ‘‘the stupidest play in football history.’’

There’s no telling what Ryan would have called an even more egregious misjudgment by running back Marion Barber in the Bears’ 13-10 overtime loss Sunday to the Denver Broncos. With the Bears leading 10-7, Barber went out of bounds on a five-yard run late in regulation, an error that gave Tim Tebow just enough time to rally the Broncos into a tie.

But coach Lovie Smith did his best Monday to take the heat off Barber.

‘‘It’s on all of us,’’ Smith said when asked whose responsibility it is to avoid such a costly gaffe. ‘‘Yes, it’s a coaching thing. It’s on our team. On Marion. On all of us. It’s a situation that shouldn’t happen, but it did. And we’re all suffering the consequences.’’

Barber, who was nearly the hero after rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries Sunday, has made three costly errors in the last two games. An illegal-formation penalty nullified his four-yard touchdown reception in a 10-3 loss
Dec. 4 to the Kansas City Chiefs, and his fumble in overtime Sunday cost the Bears a chance to kick a game-winning field goal and set up the Broncos’ game-winning field-goal drive.

Signals crossed

Smith acknowledged that a miscommunication led to Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas being wide-open for a 10-yard touchdown pass that cut the Bears’ lead to 10-7 with 2:08 left in regulation.

‘‘We weren’t all on the same page on that play,’’ Smith said.

Prevent defense

After shutting down the Broncos’ offense until the fourth quarter and overtime, the Bears left themselves open to a familiar criticism — that a prevent defense only prevents you from winning.

‘‘[The Broncos] changed their offense a little bit,’’ safety Craig Steltz said. ‘‘They spread it out and started throwing the ball, so that kind of changed our scheme a little bit. .  .  . Give them credit. They did a good job of moving down the field to get in position to kick that field goal.’’

Pressure cooker

The Bears’ offensive line helped clear the way for 159 rushing yards against the Broncos, but it also committed five penalties, including three false starts on third-down plays. Right tackle Lance Louis had two false starts and left guard Chris Spencer one.

‘‘It happens, man,’’ Louis said. ‘‘[It was] good defense. There was a lot of crowd noise. You can’t really hear. You just gotta do what you gotta do to block your guy.’’

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