By Chris Emma--
CHICAGO (CBS) -- After reading blitzes and identifying openings in coverage for four quarters, Matt Barkley was reminded that one of the hardest jobs for a starting quarterback is answering for a tough loss.
The Bears' fourth-string quarterback, Barkley had to answer for a difficult 27-21 loss to the Titans on Sunday at Soldier Field in which his teammates dropped 10 passes, including the would-be go-ahead score in the final minute.
"We win as a team, and we'll lose as a team," Barkley said afterward.
After leading the Bears back to within six after facing a 27-7 deficit in the fourth quarter, Barkley drove the Bears to the Titans' 7-yard line in the final minute. They had four chances to score. The best came on first down, when Josh Bellamy dropped one of the easiest passes of his career, this one in the end zone.
"This is not on one person or one group," Barkley said. "Nobody let anybody down. We're playing for each other."
Bellamy's drop was followed by three more incomplete passes, including a catchable ball on fourth down that Deonte Thompson couldn't haul in. Earlier in the fourth, there was a Barkley dime to Marquess Wilson in the corner of the end zone that went dropped. Rookie running back Jordan Howard also had a screen pass that went through his hands that negated a great opportunity.
Teammates did Barkley no favors in a game that could've been remembered for much more.
Once a star at USC, Barkley's NFL career hasn't gone as he could've hoped. Misfortune started when he fell to the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Opportunities have since been lacking, until Sunday, which brought his first NFL start. Barkley was 28-of-54 for 316 yards, three touchdowns and two costly red-zone interceptions. His numbers didn't reflect a performance that was mixed.
Barkley really struggled through three quarters, throwing for just 106 yards and completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes. Then came a fourth-quarter comeback that inspired his teammates. The Bears rallied around Barkley, their hope after three injuries at quarterback.
"Matt gives us a chance to make plays, and we just all build off of his energy and everybody else's energy," Wilson said.
Without the suspended Alshon Jeffery and the injured Kevin White and Zach Miller, the top target for Barkley was Wilson, who tallied eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Thompson and Bellamy each were targeted nine times, a reminder of the Bears' depleted offense.
Barkley threw his first career touchdown in the first quarter, connecting with tight end Daniel Brown, a second-year player who also scored his first touchdown in the process. Barkley said he would let Brown keep the football.
While Barkley showed poise in the fourth quarter, his first three frames will be remembered for those two terrible interceptions in the red zone, both of which could've been avoided. Barkley's second pick came on a back-foot throw into double coverage that could've been a touchdown with the right touch.
"I saw it was Cam (Meredith) in the back of the end zone," Barkley said. "It was one of those plays where I thought he was further back than he was, so I was trying to lob it over a defender. It just happened a lot quicker than I thought. I knew where he was, knew where I wanted to put it. I just didn't see it right. One of those ones that I will replay in my head tonight and wish I could have it back."
Barkley came to the Bears just prior to Week 1, signed to the practice squad to add depth. The team signed Barkley and waived David Fales, who has since returned after being signed off the Ravens' practice squad.
General manager Ryan Pace told the WBBM Newsradio 780 pregame show that he's watched Barkley for a while and expressed his belief. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has recalled scouting Barkley in college while he was leading the Titans' offense.
The Bears wanted to see if Barkley could reclaim the form from his college days. His chance to leave a lasting impression was dropped. Instead, this first start will be remembered for its mixed results.
After a tough loss, Barkley stood tall in defending his demoralized teammates. Next comes hoping for another chance to prove what he can be.
"I know who I am as a quarterback," Barkley said, "and I know what I'm capable of."
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