By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) The Bears’ offensive numbers Sunday are little confusing.
Jay Cutler posted a passer rating of 128.1 and threw for more yards than Drew Brees (358 to 288).
Alshon Jeffery caught 10 passes for a franchise-record 218 yards.
And the offense as a whole out-gained the Saints 434 to 347, accumulating 20 first downs to the Saints 17.
Yet the Bears lost 26-18 and that score was a lot closer than it really seemed.
“Disappointed, offensively, in our red zone today,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “We had a couple of opportunities to convert and we didn’t do that. And again, that starts with me. We have to do a better job.”
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The Bears scored touchdowns on two of three trips to the red zone, but the one that failed came at a particularly tough time. Down 23-7, the Bears got some momentum driving down to the Saints’ four yard line, but they failed to get it in from there and settled for a field goal.
From there, a bunch of missed opportunities kept the Bears from completing the comeback.
Down 23-10 with 8:50, the Bears had the ball at the Saints’ 25 yard line. On 3rd-and 2, Trestman elected to call for a pass instead of a run and it fell incomplete. Then, needing to go for it on fourth down, the Bears called timeout to set up a play, a timeout they would later need. On fourth down, Cutler found Earl Bennett on a short out-route but Bennett dropped the ball.
Minutes later, the defense had a chance to stop the Saints on third down, but Lance Briggs jumped the snap early on 4th-and-1 and gave New Orleans a free first down when it was unclear whether or not they were even going to snap the ball.
The offense ended up getting the ball back with three minutes left and Cutler orchestrated a quick four-play touchdown drive, but the Bears were unable to recover the on-side kick, effectively ending the game.
Missing In Action
For the fourth time in five games, the Bears failed to generate enough pressure on the quarterback, only sacking Drew Brees twice.
“It was frustrating,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “But we just need to keep working through it. I don’t have a lot of time to sit here and explain what goes into pressures and how we pass rush and different things, but I will say that it hasn’t been good enough and we’re going to work as hard as we can.”
Slow Start Offensively
The Bears dug themselves a big hole early in the game as the offensive line struggled against the Saints’ blitzes.
Cutler was sacked three times in the first half and lost the ball once, setting the Saints up for a field goal.
“I think (the blitzes) were problematic,” Trestman said. “We hadn’t really seen them. I thought Rob (Ryan) did a good job. We had answers for them early, we just didn’t get it communicated to the guys. And once we did I think you could see we were able to efficiently move the football up and down the field and our guys did a good job of making that transition.”
Collins Goes Down
The Bears’ depth at defensive tackle was tested further as Nate Collins suffered a left knee injury and did not return. Trestman did not have an update after the game, saying he would know more Monday.
With Collins out, Landon Cohen — who signed off the street 48 hours before last week’s game against the Lions — took most of the reps in Collins’ place. Meanwhile, undrafted free agent Zach Minter was activated for the first time but did not see the field.
The Bears were already playing without Stephen Paea (turf toe) and Henry Melton, who was lost for the season two weeks ago with a torn ACL.
– The Bears’ defense failed to force a turnover for the first time since last years’ 32-7 Monday night loss in San Francisco (Nov. 12, 2012).
– Jay Cutler lost for only the second time in his career when posts a 100-plus passer rating (25-2 in the regular season; 1-0 postseason).
– Brandon Marshall was held to 79 or less receiving yards for the third straight game. He caught four passes for 30 yards and touchdown.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.