A Gift-Wrapped Opening Loss In Chicago

At the end of Chicago’s 24-21 win over Cincinnati, long after the most of the players had made their way to the locker rooms; A.J. Green and Charles Tillman met at the 50-yard line, removed their jerseys, then signed and traded them.

Green and Tillman (440x298)

It was the last of many giveaways by the Bengals.

For much of the game, Cincinnati demonstrated why it is considered a Super Bowl contender:  Green was unstoppable with 9 catches for 162 yards, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert showed the potential of a two tight end attack as they combined for 10 receptions, and the Bengals defense held the Bears to 97 yards in the first half.

But three turnovers, eight penalties, and poor clock management proved to be costly as the Bengals squandered an 11-point second half lead.

“We had chances to kind of put it away and we weren’t able to do it,” said Andy Dalton.  “We turned the ball over, and turnovers killed us offensively today.  Whenever you turn the ball over as often as we did, it’s hard to win.”

“There are things you can’t do, and we did all three today,” said Marvin Lewis.  “We lost on third down defensively at critical moments; we turned the ball over when we were making positive plays, and then the penalties.  We’ve got to get it cleaned up.”

“Terrible penalties, bad time-out management – that’s an understatement saying it was bad – bad game management at the end of the first half,” said CBS broadcaster Phil Simms.  “Those little mistakes added up to just enough.”

The Bears obviously deserve credit.  After all, the Bengals head-scratching decision not to run out the clock from deep in their own territory at the end of the half might have been forgotten if Robbie Gould didn’t drill a franchise-record 58-yard field goal.  And the turnovers didn’t just happen – Tillman made a great play on his first interception and a great catch on his second one, and the Bears’ uncanny ability to force fumbles by punching the ball out of receivers’ hands resulted in Mohamed Sanu’s critical fourth quarter fumble.

Sanu fumble (440x296)

That final turnover gave Jay Cutler the opportunity to lead the Bears on an eight-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that saw Chicago overcome a 3rd-down-and-three, a 2nd-down-and-20, and a 4th-down-and-one before the game-winning TD pass to Brandon Marshall.

“If you give Jay Cutler some opportunities to throw it down the field he’ll usually get it done,” said Simms.

“They executed – especially in the fourth quarter,” said Leon Hall.  “A lot of times in close games like that, that’s really what it comes down to.  They just executed better than we did – flat out.”

“It’s disappointing,” said Vontaze Burfict.  “They’re a great team, but I feel like we folded a little bit.”

“We allowed them the opportunity to stay in the game and beat us,” said Lewis.

As last year’s 44-13 week one drubbing in Baltimore proved, a season-opening loss doesn’t necessarily portend a disappointing season.  But the Bengals are not trying to repeat their trip to the playoffs; they are trying to advance in the postseason.  Teams that win in January simply can’t make the mistakes that Cincinnati made in Chicago.

“We played really hard and that’s good to see, but we just didn’t play smart at all times,” said Dalton.  “That’s what hurt us and that’s what lost the game.”

“Everybody had a hand in this today,” said Lewis.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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