Bears hard-luck losers in Big Easy

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Some questionable calls, a couple special teams gaffes, and an inability to finish on both sides of the ball added up to a disappointing 20-12 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Sunday. The Bears fall to 3-5 heading into their bye week while the Saints lead the NFC South with a 5-2 mark.

TE Zach Miller’s overturned touchdown catch and gruesome injury in the second half will no doubt headline the water cooler conversation, but the Bears made enough mistakes throughout the contest to have only themselves to blame.

Still, Chicago had a chance to win or tie the game late thanks to some opportunistic play from the defense, which kept Drew Brees from throwing a touchdown pass and forced a pair of fumbles. However, Bears rookie QB Mitch Trubisky’s interception with just over a minute remaining sealed Chicago’s fate and gave an aggressive Saints defense the hard-earned victory.

The Bears lost Miller on a twisting, turning apparent 25 yard touchdown grab in the third quarter with Chicago trailing 14-3.  Though replay clearly showed Miller clutching the ball, officials ruled he momentarily let the ball slip out of his grasp upon hitting the ground. Miller’s leg landed awkwardly and buckled as he hit the Superdome turf, and he grimaced as trainers and teammates huddled around him. For Miller, it might be the last injury in a star-crossed career that featured several highlight receiving moments but also resulted in a series of season-ending injuries.

The Bears closed to within five on Tarik Cohen’s 1 yard leap to make it 17-12 with 4 minutes remaining and had the ball back with just over 2 minutes left, but couldn’t convert on a 4th and 1 near midfield. Trubisky endured another subpar passing game, misfiring on several throws when he had open receivers. He completed just 14 of 32 passes for 164 yards. On the positive side, Trubisky went downfield more, connecting with WR Tre McBride for a 45 yard gain. McBride caught 3 balls for a career-high 92 yards.

Elsewhere, RB Jordan Howard was his steady self, rushing for 102 yards on 23 carries with a  long gain of 50. But his struggles as a receiver out of the backfield also flared up when he dropped a wide-open swing pass that would have went for a first down and maybe a score deep in Saints territory.

Defensively, Chicago largely contained the explosive New Orleans offense, but missed tackles and coverage blunders allowed the Saints to move the chains freely, resulting in a decided field-position advantage. Brees was sharp, completing 23-of-28 passes for 298 yards but no scores. His most reliable weapons were his backfield mates, RB’s Mark Ingram and rookie RB Alvin Kumara.

The Saints got on the board first and never relinquished the lead when Kumara ran 8 yards for a touchdown after New Orleans got new life when Bears CB Kyle Fuller lined up offside on Saints field goal attempt, giving New Orleans a first down. That was one of the Chicago special teams errors. The other occurred when Bears K Connor Barth missed yet another makeable kick, a 47-yarder.

Extra Points:  G Kyle Long left the game in the first half and didn’t return with an injury to his hand….C Cody Whitehair suffered an elbow injury and was forced out of action in the fourth quarter….nickel back Bryce Callahan left early in the game with a knee injury….The Bears sacked Brees twice, once by former New Orleans draftee Akeem Hicks.

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