Bears fall victim to another Broncos comeback

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Bears fall victim to another Broncos comeback

DENVER As the Bears lined up for a block attempt on Denver kicker Matt Praters 51-yard field goal in overtime, defensive tackle Henry Melton turned to safety Chris Conte in no small state of disbelief.

Birdman, Melton said, how did we ever get in this situation?

Melton may well have been speaking for the Bears season as well as Sundays 13-10 overtime loss to the Broncos. Just as he had from 59 yards with 2 seconds remaining to tie the game, Prater made his 51-yard kick, giving Denver its sixth straight victory, the Bears (7-6) their third straight loss, and their playoff hopes a possible death blow.

The defense, which had shut out Tim Tebow and the Broncos for 56 minutes, cracked and allowed 10 points over the final four minutes of regulation.

The offense twice had chances to win the game and failed, in the person of Marion Barber. The running back inexplicably stepped out of bounds after a carry with two minutes remaining, effectively giving the Broncos, who were by then out of time outs, 35 free seconds and a clock-stoppage.

The Broncos needed 50 seconds to drive for Praters tying field goal.

We have to know the situation, said coach Lovie Smith. In that situation we have to be able to keep the ball in bounds. Hell tell you that.

For Tebow, who turned himself around dramatically in the final quarter, the Barber blunder was an occasion for a different thought.

I might have thanked the Lord when he did that, Tebow said.

Barber, who had cost the Bears a touchdown in the Kansas City loss when he lined up improperly on what was a scoring pass to him, then compounded his mistake by fumbling the ball at the Denver 33 in overtime, well within winning-field-goal range for Robbie Gould.

That was turned into Praters second boot from 50-plus.

We just didnt finish, said linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Now it is the Bears who may be finished, however.

Costly defeat

The loss, before a Sports Authority Field crowd of 75,513, was nothing short of devastating in a season that was slipping away from the Bears over the past two weeks, since Jay Cutlers thumb injury and compounded by Matt Fortes knee injury.

The Bears are now looking up at both the Falcons and Lions after having control of their wild-card destiny at 7-3.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons slipped by the Carolina Panthers, results that gave the Bears two biggest wild-card rivals matching 8-5 records.

Only once (1979) in franchise history has a Bears team lost three straight games and advanced to the postseason. That team achieved the playoffs by virtue of winning its final three games for a 10-6 record.

All losses hurt. This one hurts, said linebacker Lance Briggs. Were getting closer to the end of the season. Weve got three games left theyre all must-win.

Eventful regulation

The Bears built a 10-0 lead through the end of the third quarter on a nine-yard touchdown run by Barber and 57-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. They appeared to have a win within their grasp before a collapse unlike many by the defense in the past couple of seasons.

Denver scored its first points of the game on a 10yard pass from Tebow to Demaryius Thomas with just over two minutes to play. Linebacker Nick Roach was able to gather in a bounding onsides kickoff.

The Bears were forced to punt, and Tebow and the Broncos, with help from the clock-stoppage on Barbers stepping out of bounds, had a chance for a winning score starting from their 20-yard line with 56 seconds to play.

Prater converted a 59-yard field field goal with two seconds remaining to tie a game in which the Broncos had never led.

Very special teams

Devin Hesters 26-yard punt return in the third quarter, twisting away from what was developing as solid coverage, set the Bears up at the Denver 42. The offense moved to a first-and-goal at the Broncos 9, from where Barber broke tackles and went in standing up with less than 6 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Those were the first points of the game and were followed by Gould converting the longest field goal in franchise history, a 57-yarder on the first snap of the fourth quarter.

A Julius Peppers second-quarter block of a 28-yard field goal try helped hold the Broncos scoreless in the first half.

Breakdown giveaways

The Bears did virtually nothing in a scoreless first half and the Broncos only slightly more as the two teams combined for 90 yards in the first quarter and 219 total for the half. The Bears had 84 total yards in the first half and was in Denvers end of the field for exactly one play in the entire first half.

Particularly disturbing for the Bears, the offense failed to convert on any of five third downs in the first half after an 0-for-11 effort in the loss to Kansas City.

After two three-and-outs, the defense created its own problems with a pair of major gaffes. The pass rush was non-existent on a third-and-16 to allow a 23-yard Tebow completion. And Lance Briggs was called for a late hit of Tebow to give Denver another first down.

The threat was ended with Charles Tillman made one of the more acrobatic interceptions of the season, going high for the catch of an apparent Tebow throwaway and twisting to get both feet down.

A possession later, Tebow converted a third-and-15 in the second quarter when containment broke down. Israel Idonije drew a roughing penalty for a low hit on Tebow on a third-and-8.

Despite four third-down conversions, the Bears avoided damage when Peppers and Israel Idonije blocked a short field goal midway through the second quarter.

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Both teams are on track to be drafting in the top five, and the inevitable “the loser is the winner” talk has made its rounds, meaning that a defeat moves the loser higher in the draft order. The reality is that neither team will tank the game for draft position.

But the chances of two woeful teams playing well are slim. The 49ers won in Week 1 and then have lost 10 straight. The Bears are trying to avoid losing four straight for the first time under John Fox.

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Quarterback Colin Kaepernick burst upon the NFL scene in 2012 with a blowout of the Bears in his first start. He has regained his starting job in San Francisco and is still one of the prototypical mobile quarterbacks.

But the 49ers are the NFL’s worst defense in both points and yardage allowed, and they are the worst rushing defense in the league. Expect the Bears to try exploiting that and give quarterback Matt Barkley a balanced run-pass game plan.

Prediction: Bears 24, 49ers 20

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Kyle Fuller was one of the seeming fixtures in the Bears’ defense as it transitioned from the 4-3 of old to the 3-4 of Vic Fangio. And he may be again, the Bears hope very soon, as he has begun practicing after months on injured reserve following knee surgery in August.

The Bears could place Fuller on the active roster as late as Saturday after he practiced all three days this week. “He made it three days in practice, no setbacks,” said coach John Fox. “He seems to be adapting pretty well. He has another practice [Saturday] and we don’t have to make a decision until 3 p.m. because of where he is on the roster. We’ll evaluate that after tomorrow.”

Were Fuller to return — restoring one projected 2016 starter to a defense that has been forced to field five different starting secondaries in the span of 11 games — he may be phased back in with a managed number of snaps, as other certain other players returning from injury have been.

But getting Fuller back projects to be an instant upgrade for a defensive backfield among the NFL’s worst at producing takeaways.

“We all play different positions so we’re kind of used to it, people moving in and out over the year,” said Bryce Callahan, who was initially ticketed for nickel duty as the No. 3 cornerback this season but has been pressed into service starting at cornerback in four games.

“It’s always good to get someone like Kyle back.”

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The Bears would need to weigh what workload Fuller could handle vs. roster needs based on only having 46 players active on game day.

“You’re always a little bit cautious because it does affect your roster,” Fox said. “But if you feel like he makes you better, that’s a move you make. Now we’re just working through him medically, durability-wise, and how much he can play.”

Jay Cutler (shoulder) was officially declared out and is headed for surgery on Saturday, ultimately to injured reserve.

Other availability questions include receiver Eddie Royal (toe), guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and safety Adrian Amos (ankle), all questionable. Linebacker Willie Young (knee) did not practice but linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to practice on a limited basis although his status in the concussion protocol will not be known until closer to game time.