(WSCR)The criticism and concern over the Chicago Bears has been the same for quite some time now: an offensive line unable to protect their quarterback and an offensive unit unable of producing any consistent performances. However, one thing is different now than in previous weeks, the Bears will have two weeks without a game to try and correct their mistakes.

The Bears find themselves in a familiar, sinking position starting a bye week.

For the third straight year, the team has bogged down following a good start and now they’re looking for answers and a chance to get healthy in the wake of Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the Washington Redskins.

“I think the bye week is coming at a great time for us period,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We’ve lost three out of four games, but at the same time we’ve been able to see the type of football team we can be, which is a very good football team.”

Chicago started 2008 at 5-3 before fading to 9-7 and missing the playoffs and last year started 3-1 before losing six of its next seven. The Bears began this season 4-1 but have lost two straight home games to NFC teams due largely to a turnover- and sack-prone offense.

“This isn’t a very hard sport to figure out,” center Olin Kreutz said. “It’s just hard to do, and we’re having a hard time doing it right now.”

The offensive line drew most of the fire earlier in the season, but after the loss to Washington quarterback Jay Cutler and Smith had plenty of issues that needed to be addressed.

Smith failed to call for a replay when Cutler fumbled trying to dive over from the 1-yard line on a quarterback sneak early in the third quarter. Sideline views after the game indicated Cutler put the ball over the goal line when he reached out before fumbling, but Smith said assistants in the coaching box had no real conclusive camera angle immediately after the play.

He also said he thought his defense would force Washington to punt from near its goal line.

Still, Smith admitted a mistake.

“I should have thrown the red flag on the 1-yard fumble down by the end zone,” Smith said. “Yes, I should have, looking at it, of course, in hindsight. … I understand the reasons why, but that was a critical play in the game. I need to be able to make that call.”

Smith had just exhausted a time-out one play prior with a failed challenge on wide receiver Earl Bennett’s reception that was ruled on the field to be down at the 1-yard line and not in the end zone. The Bears have lost 12 of their last 15 replay challenges.

Cutler took the blame for the four interceptions he threw Sunday, all of them to Washington’s DeAngelo Hall.

“Jay of course would like to have some of those throws back,” Smith said Monday. “There are so many things that all of us would like to do differently.”

Until the Washington game, the real problem for Cutler had been getting sacked. He had only three interceptions before Sunday’s loss.

The Bears allowed four sacks Sunday, an improvement over six against Seattle and nine against the New York Giants. Yet they lead the league with 31 allowed, 20 more than their own defense has managed against opponents. They also have converted only 17.9 percent of their third-down plays (15-for-84), last in the league.

Amid the struggles, Smith saw some positives in a five-series stint that included 270 yards gained and 16 first downs.

“We weren’t able to get points on the board and it’s always about points,” Smith said.

The team should be healthier when it plays Buffalo Nov. 7. Linebacker Lance Briggs is expected to be over an ankle injury that caused him to miss one game and most of Sunday’s loss. Also, safety Major Wright should be back from a pulled hamstring.

Guard Edwin Williams suffered a back injury and had to be replaced Sunday. For the next game, the line could take on another look because guard Roberto Garza will likely be back from arthroscopic knee surgery, which leaves the Bears pondering whether to move guard Chris Williams back to left tackle or put him at another position or even the bench.

“We’re still in a good position,” nose tackle Anthony Adams said. “We’re 4-3, we still haven’t played Minnesota, we have to play Green Bay one more time and Detroit one more time. So we can still make a run at this thing. It’s not over for us at all.”

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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