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Emma: Bears Will Regret Their Brutal Mistakes That Led To Loss

By Chris Emma--

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) -- When Jay Cutler returned to the field following a pick-six for 49ers safety Jimmie Ward on Sunday, the Bears quarterback ran out to linebacker NaVorro Bowman and smirked.

"You got me," Cutler said.

At the time late in the first quarter, the Bears and 49ers were tied up, 6-6, with the interception returned for a touchdown looking to be a bad blip amid what was supposed to be a good day for the Bears. Instead, it was one of several plays that led to a devastating 26-20 overtime loss for Chicago, one that all but ended any semblance of playoff hopes.

On Monday at Halas Hall, the harsh reality had struck hard for the Bears. The playoffs were now a long shot, and the film review of Sunday's game wouldn't make it feel any better.

"We got to hold each other accountable and hold ourselves accountable," Bears tackle Kyle Long said of the film session. "There's going to be honesty."

Surely, the Bears have some breakdowns to assess.


When Cutler took the first-quarter dropback, Ward didn't even drop back into coverage. He shuffled his feet, then swiftly made his break for it when spotting the windup. It was perfectly played.

Standing at the line, Cutler had checked into the screen play, which has been a comfort blanket for the Bears' offense. It's a way to beat a defense cheating up toward the line of scrimmage, a look the 49ers showed all game, plus it offers the quarterback a free play to avoid a hit. A screen pass minimizes the risk of a struggling offensive line.

A six-year veteran and three-time All-Pro linebacker, Bowman knew what was coming. He barked over to Ward, the second-year safety out of Northern Illinois, and had him ready at the line of scrimmage.

"Understanding that Jay (Cutler), he liked to let the play clock get down very low so he could see what the defense was going to do," Bowman said. "When he made that check in the situation we were in, I knew the screen was coming. I just had to communicate that to all 11 guys. It was the right call, and Jimmie was able to make the play."

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, the intended target, ran three strides forward before pivoting back behind the line of scrimmage for the pass. Ward wasn't even paying attention to Jeffery -- he didn't need to.

With the help of Bowman, Ward was able to outsmart Cutler, offensive coordinator Adam Gase and the Bears' offense.

"He had a good read on it, jumped it and made a good play," Cutler said after the game.

Off went Ward to the end zone, finishing his pick-six with an impressive flip across the goal line.

The 49ers hadn't crossed midfield to that point in the game. A misread by Cutler and terrific play from Bowman and Ward led to this game taking an unexpected turn.


Five Bears defenders were between the hashmarks in the middle of the field, converging on 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert's scramble late in the fourth quarter. Had one made a tackle, the outcome of Sunday's game may have been much different.

Gabbert does have good speed, but Mike Vick he is not. Adrian Amos turned back from his deep coverage at the 20-yard line and moved toward Gabbert, who was 22 yards away. There was no reason for Amos to miss this tackle. Well, maybe one.

Amos thought that Gabbert was going to slide. Count that as a rookie mistake.

"I was the post safety," Amos said. "Last line of defense."

Linebacker Jonathan Anderson moved to double an out route, and linebacker Shea McClellin was caught defending the right flats. Both were caught behind Gabbert's speed. Safety Chris Prosinski followed 49ers tight end Blake Bell, who was running a post route, and cornerback Kyle Fuller was hesitant to attack.

An aggressive hitter, Amos let up in his pursuit of Gabbert and then missed badly in his attempt to catch the quarterback. It turned into a rather surprising 44-yard touchdown to tie the game.

"I've seen Blaine run," Bowman said of his quarterback. "He's got a little savviness to him. We love it as his teammates. I think it's showing out there the way the offense is really playing for him. It was exciting to see him run down that field."

Suddenly, the Bears and 49ers were even again at 20-20. With 1:42 left in the game, Chicago had to find some way to pull out this win.


Veteran cornerback Tracy Porter has worked as one of the leaders of the Bears' young secondary. He's often in charge of barking out orders for adjustments.

On what would be the final play of the game, Porter appeared to offer directions for Amos, but clearly it didn't bring the results the Bears wanted. My colleague Dan Durkin breaks it down beautifully with images here.

"We just had a miscommunication," Amos said. "We got to do better."

Amos expected to see 49ers receiver Torrey Smith lined up on the inside, and Smith was eager when he saw Amos cheating in. The speedy receiver was ready to end the game.

"We knew they were sitting," Smith said of the Bears' coverage. "We didn't take too many shots this game. They were sitting on us, so what are we waiting for? Let's go get it. We got a great look. Everything happened the way you wanted it to happen."

What happened was Amos moved toward Anquan Boldin's short route, doing so with the idea that he had help deep in coverage. The only man near the play was Prosinski, who had no shot to run down Smith.

The 49ers celebrated with Smith in the southeast corner of Soldier Field, having stunned the Bears with a 71-yard score and exploiting a bad defensive breakdown.

"I'm not going to sit here and point fingers," Prosinski said after the game.

No Bears pointed fingers after a game with so many gaffes. They had plenty of chances to earn the victory and blew their shot at .500 -- and, more likely than not, a shot at the postseason. It was a crushing loss that could've been prevented.

Had the Bears avoided a block in the back on their first-quarter trick punt return for a touchdown, they would've won. Had they kept the 49ers' lethargic offense from going 16 plays for a touchdown in the second quarter, they would've won. And had Robbie Gould hit a routine, straight-on 36-yard field goal as time expired, like he had so many times before, they would've won.

"We've been a resilient, hard-playing group," Bears coach John Fox said. "We compete for 60 minutes. Sometimes, we just got to be better as far as our performance."

Fox knows it, and the Bears know it, too -- if they were one play better on Sunday, their playoff hopes would be alive and well. Now, they're only playing for pride.

Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.  

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