Mental mistakes and poor play doom Chicago Bears

Although the story of the day in the Chicago Bears (6-4) vs. St. Louis Rams (5-6) matchup was brothers Kyle and Chris Long facing each other for the first time on an NFL field Sunday. The theme of the day for the Bears was giving the Rams every opportunity to win the game.

Chicago Bears’ poor play becoming recurring theme

Chicago Bears corner Zack Bowman could not stop Tavon Austin

Tavon Austin (11) gave the Rams’ offense the spark they needed with a first quarter 65-yard touchdown rush. (Photo cred: Scott Kane, USA Today Sports)

Energized by a 65-yard touchdown scamper from rookie wideout Tavon Austin, the Rams would later jump out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter. Needless to say, things certainly looked bleak for the Bears. They managed to cut the lead to 24-14 at half due to a three-yard touchdown catch from Brandon Marshall, so hope was restored on the Chicago sideline.

What a fleeting emotion hope is sometimes. The Bears could not get anything going in the third quarter, and this is where one of the biggest self-inflicted wounds would occur. With the game still in reach at 24-14, the Bears faced a fourth-and-one in Rams’ territory after going three downs without kicking a field goal and taking the points. Always a guy to go with the statistics, head coach Marc Trestman elected to go for it, handing the ball off to running back Michael Bush. Bush, who used to be known for his ability pound it in at the goal line, was thrown for a four-yard loss by defensive end Jo-Lunn Dunbar. 

Trestman will undoubtedly say going for it was the right call, as he did when he went for it on fourth down earlier in the season against the Detroit Lions and was unsuccessful. Coming into this game, the Bears were 6-of-9 on fourth down conversions. When a coach like Trestman backs up his decision to go for it on fourth down with sound statistical analysis like he did in last week’s press conference , it is hard to disagree with him. However, at that point with all of the momentum on the Rams’ side, three points would have shifted the balance and turned the game into a one possession contest at 24-17.

However you look at it, the Bears are at a pivotal point in their season where they can not afford to make decisions based off statistics, especially when said decisions have not worked out on a consistent basis. Not to mention penalties have been a killer for the team as well, as today they had 10 spanning 84 yards. The penalty that served as a metaphor for how the game had been going for the Bears was when kick returner Devin Hester had a 62-yard punt return, which would have put the Bears well within range to come back and win the game, negated due to a holding penalty on safety Craig Steltz.

Bears quarterback Josh McCown was stripped in the fourth quarter by defensive end Robert Quinn, who returned the ball for a touchdown, and the late score essentially sealed the 42-21 Rams’ victory. The defensive front four of the Rams were relentless the entire game, as McCown was hit hard multiple times and the run game was non-existent due to the constant penetration and pressure from the unit. Matt Forte was stifled, only rushing for 77 yards on 16 carries.

McCown threw for 352 yards on 36-of-47 passing, with two touchdowns and an interception.

The running game of the Rams was efficient as Zac Stacy rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. The touchdown came in the first quarter when Forte fumbled on the Rams’ 7, where Stacy was able to capitalize and punch it in for the score. Backup Benny Cunningham was the biggest beneficiary of the once-again porous Bears’ defense, a unit that gave up 258 yards rushing. Cunningham rushed for 109 yards with a touchdown on just 13 carries.

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The play that jump-started the Rams’ scoring attack happened in the first quarter when rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin burned the Bears with a 65-yard touchdown rush, effectively catching the Bears off guard. The playmaker had 39 yards receiving on 11 touches.

The Bears could not gain ground and thus remain tied for first in the NFC North after the Detroit Lions lost and the Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game ended in a tie. Given the way the game went for the Bears Sunday, it is only fitting they could not take advantage of that.

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