Bears struggle in all three phases



, N.J. – The pass protection was much improved, but the negatives far outweighed the positives for the Bears Monday night at New Meadowlands Stadium.


 Bears The same offense that got gorged for nine sacks in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills yielded only one sack to the New York Giants. But while cracks were sealed in that one aspect of the game, major leaks sprung up in others in a discouraging 41-13 loss.


Coach Lovie Smith opened his post-game press conference by saying: “First off, I’ll be quick and talk about the good things we did tonight. There weren’t a whole lot of them.”


The Bears defense allowed five touchdowns and two field goals on nine possessions during one stretch while failing to record a sack or a takeaway in the game.


“We haven’t played a defensive game like that in a while,” Smith said. “We’ve got to take the ball away. The tackling wasn’t good. I guess I better stop and go on to something else. I could keep talking about how [poorly] we played defensively.”


The Bears didn’t perform any better on special teams. The Giants scored their first two touchdowns in taking a 20-6 halftime lead after Devin Thomas returned a kickoff 73 yards to the Chicago 31 and Greg Jones blocked a punt and returned it to the Bears’ 6.


“Defensively or special teams, I just didn’t think we played the way we normally do,” Smith said. “Each play we get, we get a chance to see our players in tough situations. Some of the younger players with an opportunity to play, we got a chance to see. It definitely wasn’t a passing grade tonight, but we’ll learn.”


After Rhys Lloyd’s 25-yard field goal had given the Giants a 3-0 lead, Robbie Gould’s 23-yarder tied the score late in the first quarter. The kick came after Jay Cutler hit Devin Hester streaking down the right sideline for 37 yards and Matt Forte turned a screen pass into a 42-yard gain to the Giants’ 7.


Thomas’ long kickoff return then set up Brandon Jacobs’ 18-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter, which gave the Giants a 10-3 lead they would not relinquish. The 6-4, 264-pound running back burst through a gaping hole up the middle and faked out safety Major Wright in the secondary.


After Lloyd’s 37-yard field goal widened the margin to 13-3 midway through the second period, Cutler’s 32-yard completion to Earl Bennett set up Gould’s 42-yard field goal, drawing the Bears to within 13-6. The offensive line provided excellent protection on the long pass over the middle.


Playing the entire first half with the rest of the starters, Cutler completed 12 of 21 passes for 171 yards and an 83.6 passer rating while being sacked only once.


“The protection was a lot better tonight,” Smith said. “With our offensive line, we needed to see the group take a step. I thought we did that. I thought Jay put in a solid first half as far as passing the ball.”


Two plays after the Giants had taken over at the Chicago 6 following the blocked punt, David Carr lofted a five-yard TD pass in the right corner of the end zone to receiver Domenik Hixon, who beat cornerback Corey Graham to widen the margin to 20-6 with :35 left in the half.


The Giants eventually increased their lead to 41-6, scoring touchdowns on D.J. Ware’s one-yard run, Carr’s 17-yard pass to tight end Daniel Coats and Da’Rel Scott’s 97-yard run with 2:46 to play.


The Bears scored their only touchdown of the game with :24 remaining on Kahlil Bell’s one-yard dive. But it was of little consolation after they were outplayed in all three phases by the Giants.



Photo: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters