Bears fall to Saints, 26-18

Chicago's Stephen Paea catches Cincinnati's BenJarvus Green Ellis in the first quarter at Soldier Field Sept. 8, 2013. Paea is inactive today versus the Saints, and will be replaced in the starting lineup by Landon Cohen. (Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com)

CHICAGO – A 2-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall followed by a 2-point conversion run by Matt Forte with a little more than 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter was not enough for the Bears, who lost, 26-18, Sunday to the Saints.

It was the Bears second straight loss, dropping them to 3-2 after a 3-0 start.

The Bears attempted an onside kick after Forte's 2-point conversion, but it was recovered by the Saints. The Bears defense held and forced a punt, but there was time for just one play by the offense and the game ended.

Here are other observations from the fourth quarter of Bears vs. Saints:

• The Bears found some running lanes in the fourth quarter, with Matt Forte rushing the ball five times for 24 yards.

• Alshon Jeffery broke the franchise record for receiving yards in a game on the final play, finishing with 218 yards receiving. He hauled in a 58-yard bomb from Cutler to set up Brandon Marshall's touchdown.

• Earl Bennett had a crucial drop on 4th-and-2 early in the quarter, ending a long Bears drive that started at their own one-yard line.

• Jermon Bushrod did not have his best game, and he missed an obvious block on a Forte toss play that could have gone for more yards.

• The Saints drew Lance Briggs offsides on 4th-and-short with 6:41 to go, extending their drive and taking more time off the clock.

-Kevin Fishbain

Third quarter observations:

The Bears had a chance to cut into the Saints' lead after Jay Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery for a 42-yard pass play over the middle of the field. Jeffery had one-on-one coverage and readjusted to a slightly underthrown ball.

Cutler got the Bears first-and-goal on the next play by completing a pass to Martellus Bennett, but then Chicago's offense stalled.

Kyle Long got an "ineligible man downfield" penalty, backing the Bears up five yards. Cutler went for Jeffery again, whose feet got tangled and he fell. Cutler then targeted Matt Forte, and the pass was almost intercepted, but fell incomplete. On third down, Cutler tried for Jeffery, but the ball went incomplete, and Chicago settled for a field goal.

The red-zone stall also featured no targets to Brandon Marshall, who has only two catches today.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Saints lead 23-10.

Here are other observations from the third quarter of Bears vs. Saints:

• Nate Collins' left knee buckled awkwardly and he left the game and will not return. Collins was on the ground for some time, but able to leave the field on his own power. With Henry Melton already out for the year and Stephen Paea sidelined today, Collins was as irreplaceable as they get on the D-line. Landon Cohen is filling in.

• We got our first glimpses of rookie David Bass on defense at the end spot, and he did get a couple pressures on Drew Brees.

• Tim Jennings went down after a catch by Marques Colston, but he only missed one play before returning.

• Darren Sproles racked up a big gain on a reception on third down when Lance Briggs followed Jimmy Graham on a crossing pattern, opening things up for Sproles.

• Briggs has been very productive against the run. He has 11 tackles, three for a loss.

• The Bears attempted that toss left to Forte twice, and one of them did go for a big gain. Some of Forte's longest runs have come on that play, but the Saints have been stout against the run.

-Kevin Fishbain

Second quarter observations

The Bears' good feelings lasted for about 2 minutes.

If you're looking for someone to blame for that fact, the New Orleans Saints would be your target.

The Saints added a late touchdown to increase their lead to 20-7 at halftime Sunday at Soldier Field. Saints running back Pierre Thomas scored on a 25-yard catch and run to cap off a scoring drive that covered 71 yards and lasted 2:18 and quieted a sellout crowd clad in orange and blue.

The late score spoiled a highlight-reel quarter for Alshon Jeffery, who made a pair of much-needed big plays to pull the Bears back into a game that had started to slip away. His 31-yard reception down the middle of the field set up his 2-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone, which sliced the Bears’ deficit to single digits (at least, for a short while).

Now, for a quick history lesson: The Bears are 1-1 this season when trailing at the half. They rallied for a comeback win in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals but could not overcome a disastrous second quarter in Week 4 against Detroit.

Here are some other observations from Sunday’s second quarter.

• The Bears offensive line continued to struggle against the Saints’ exotic blitzes. New Orleans safety Kenny Vaccaro dumped Jay Cutler for an 8-yard loss on the first series of the quarter, which prompted Adam Podlesh’s third punt of the young game. On Vaccaro’s sack, Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod failed to pick up a block.

• The Bears’ special-teams unit displayed its warts once again as Eric Weems was flagged for a personal foul on a punt return by Devin Hester. The penalty created terrible field position for Jay Cutler and Co., who started from their 13-yard line.

• Although bright spots were tough to come by for the Bears, Earl Bennett provided one with a great catch along the sidelines to convert a first down. Bennett has not been used much this season, but he has taken advantage of his rare opportunities.

• Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham put on a show on their second series of the quarter. Brees connected with Graham for a 29-yard pass down the seam with no one defending the middle of the field, and he found Graham down the left sideline for a 38-yard gain two plays later. Pierre Thomas finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown reception.

• Martellus Bennett, who already was battling a bum shoulder, stayed down for several moments after taking a hard fall along the sidelines on an 18-yard reception. Bears fans cheered as Bennett eventually got back to his feet and headed toward the sideline, and he returned to the game a couple of plays later.

-Tom Musick

First quarter observations

Here's something we're used to: the Bears' defense bailing out the Bears' offense.

After Jay Cutler was strip-sacked on Chicago's second series, with Cameron Jordan recovering the Malcom Jenkins-forced fumble at Chicago's six-yard line, the Bears' defense held. They stayed home on a play-action on second down, and Drew Brees threw an incomplete pass.

On third down, Sean Payton called a run, and the Bears were not fooled, holding New Orleans to a field goal.

The fumble came on the Bears' fourth offensive play of the game and was Cutler's third lost fumble of the season. 

At the end of the first quarter, the Bears trail 6-0.

Here are other observations from the first quarter of Bears vs. Saints:

• Matt Forte fumbled on the first play, a toss play, but he recovered for a 10-yard loss.

• On the Saints' first drive, the Bears' "D" held them to a field goal after giving up chunks of yardage on the first few plays thanks to a huge sack by Nate Collins. Chicago stayed in its base defense, keeping D.J. Williams on the field and Isaiah Frey off, Drew Brees countered by going to 5-wide and Collins one his battle to get the sack.

• We're still seeing Eben Britton in the game as an extra tackle, which gives the Bears another blocker for the run game, but also means they aren't as confident in Martellus Bennett's shoulder to keep him in as a run blocker.

• It seems we'll see plenty of Earl Bennett on offense today, as his snaps have increased each week. He was on the field for almost every play of the first quarter, but did not get a target.

• The offense emptied the backfield twice in the first quarter. One had Michael Bush split wide, on another, the Saints blitzed and David Hawthorne got to Cutler untouched for a sack. Joe Anderson was the fifth pass catcher on the field in that formation.

• After a rough outing last week, Adam Podlesh is off to a great start on Sunday. He had a 54-yard punt that pinned the Saints at their 11-yard line.

• Landon Cohen was the listed starter in place of Stephen Paea, but Corey Wootton was at defensive tackle for almost every snap of the first quarter, with Shea McClellin at defensive end opposite Julius Peppers.

Rookie David Bass, in his NFL debut, was part of the Bears' kickoff-return unit as one of the blockers.

-Kevin Fishbain

Pre-game

Say hello to Landon Cohen.

Cohen, a 27-year-old defensive tackle, has been on the Bears for all of 10 days. Ready or not, he’ll make his first start for his new team today against the New Orleans Saints in place of Stephen Paea, who is inactive because of a toe injury.

On the bright side, there’s the sky, which is clear blue and filled with sunshine as kickoff approaches at Soldier Field. Heavy storms passed through the area Saturday evening, but the weather is expected to remain dry throughout Sunday’s game.

In addition to Paea, the Bears’ inactive players include Anthony Walters, James Brown, Jonathan Scott, Steve Maneri, C.J. Wilson and Cornelius Washington.

That means rookie wide receiver Marquess Wilson is active for his first regular-season game today. Wilson, a seventh-round pick from Washington State, will be joined by fellow wide receiver Joe Anderson, who also was inactive last week.

The Bears have not played the Saints since 2011, when they lost, 30-13, on the road. The Bears have a 15-12 edge in the all-time series, which started in 1968.

– Tom Musick

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