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Durkin: Clock Management, Turnovers Mar Bears In Loss

By Dan Durkin-

(CBS) In a game where defense was clearly optional, the Bears offense had to be perfect Sunday against the Packers. For one half, they nearly were.

Trailing 21-17, the Bears got the ball back with all three of their timeouts and just more than a minute remaining in the first half. What ensued was a stilted series of play calls and clock management decisions.

The Bears ran the ball on first down, picking up 13 yards and using a timeout afterward. On the next play, they ran the ball again, picking up five yards, but then let 20 seconds run off the clock before running their next play. In two of their next three plays, they gained a combined 53 yards through the air, using a timeout in between as they set themselves up at the Packers' 9-yard-line.

However, rather than spiking the ball on first down to stop the clock, the Bears opted to burn their final timeout, which ended up costing them points.

On the final play of the first half, the Bears ran a "four verticals" route, in which all receivers release up the field. Quarterback Jay Cutler completed the pass to tight end Martellus Bennett, who caught the ball shy of the goal line and was tackled just outside of the end zone. The ruling was reviewed, but the call was upheld. With the Packers set to receive to start the second half, the Bears missed an opportunity to score and watched Green Bay tally 17 second-half points en route to their 38-17 win.

Throwing the ball short of the goal line without a timeout remaining seemed like a curious decision, yet Cutler was fine with both the call and Bennett's decision to flatten his route out rather than staying vertical.

"I feel like he's going to catch it and land in the end zone," Cutler said. "If we go back, work outside or throw it away. I like the call, I liked the throw. I thought their defender made a heck of a play. You see the replay, looked like he had the ball over the goal line, but didn't get that one either. Three points there didn't win or lose us the ballgame."

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However you choose to look at it, in the end, that was the last play the Bears ran inside the Packers' red zone and they were shut out in the second half.

Turnovers were the story in the second half, as Cutler threw two interceptions. The first of which came on a slant route. The Packers were in a three-deep coverage and cornerback Tramon Williams jumped the route, a tendency the Packers hadn't shown on film.

"Most of the time in three-deep, he's not going to jump it," Cutler said. "He just got into the deep third and just decided he was going to make a play there and he made a play."

The second interception came on a miscommunication between Cutler and Brandon Marshall, who didn't practice all week. Chicago coach Marc Trestman mentioned on Friday that Marshall proved to the coaching staff in the 49ers game that he could still produce despite not practicing, but Trestman admitted it does affect timing and some of the play calls in that week's game plan install.

"That was a miscommunication between Jay and Brandon," Trestman said. "Brandon was supposed to run a hook route deep at 18 yards, and he turned it into a go route."

Giving the Packers extra possessions on Sunday was the last thing the Bears offense needed to do. Save for a blocked field goal attempt, the Packers scored on six of their seven offensive possessions in the romp.

One question coming into this game was whether the Bears could win a shootout. After Sunday, it remains unanswered.

Dan Durkin covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.

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