There’s no more effusive, excitable and affable player on the Bears than wide receiver Josh Bellamy. But even the normally loquacious Bellamy was at a loss for words after a glaring drop of what looked like a sure touchdown in the final minute of the Bears’ 27-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Soldier Field.
“I just missed the opportunity,” a disconsolate Bellamy said. “I just got to focus more — look it in and catch the ball.”
The Bears had all the momentum and had the Titans defense on its heels after Matt Barkley’s 23-yard pass to Marquess Wilson to the Titans’ 7-yard line with 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Bears trailing 27-21. On first-and-goal, Bellamy was wide open five yards deep in the end zone in front of beaten cornerback Perrish Cox. Though Matt Barkley’s pass was chest high, Bellamy inexplicably jumped for the ball, got his hands on it — and just dropped a pass he probably catches 100 times out of 100 until that fateful moment.
“I shouldn’t have [jumped]. I just missed the opportunity,” said Bellamy, who had four receptions for 41 yards, including a cluch 12-yard catch on third-and-11 on the previous drive that produced a touchdown that gave the Bears a chance.
“I beat myself up, because I expect more out of myself. I know I should have made that play. I feel I let [Barkley] down. I let myself down and my teammates. But hey, you’ve got to keep going.”
Bellamy wasn’t the only Bears receiver to lament a missed opportunity. The Bears had 10 dropped passes Sunday, which according to Pro Football Focus is the most in the NFL in one game this season.
Barkley, who threw three touchdown passes but also two interceptions, rued the missed opportunities but supported his teammates.
“We’ve been repping plays like that for so long that it’s hard to see those not work,” Barkley said. “But Josh played his butt off the whole game. You can’t put that one on him. [It’s] on me and the players throughout the game with opportunities to make it not close in the end. We win as a team and we’ll lose as a team.”
Not all the drops were as egregious as Bellamy’s Three plays after Bellamy’s miscue — on fourth-and-goal with 34 seconds left — Deonte Thompson had a more difficult play in the end zone, but failed to come up with a ball in traffic that hit both of his hands just above the turf. If it wasn’t a drop, it was at least a catchable ball.
“I should have had it,” said Thompson, who primarily is a kick returner, but had five receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown against the Titans. “I saw it late. I’ve got to make that play.”
The Bears actually did a pretty good job of overcoming their rash of drops until that final drive. Rookie running back Jordan Howard had a bad one on second-and-goal from the Titans 7 in the first half. But Barkley threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dan Brown on the next play for a 7-0 lead. With the Bears down 27-14 in the fourth quarter, Cam Meredith had two drops and Marquess Wilson dropped a catchable ball in the end zone. But Barkley threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Thompson, who beat cornerback LeShaun Sims in the end zone to close to 27-21 with 3:06 left.
“It was just man-to-man coverage. I won my match-up,” Thompson said. “I had told Matt earlier that the guy couldn’t guard me. He just believed in me and threw the ball to me.”
If only it were as simple as that — throwing the ball and catching it — the Bears might have pulled this one out.
“It was a tough day for our group,” Thompson said. “I have no idea [why]. I guess it was coincidence. This group doesn’t drop balls. First time we ever came out and performed like that.”
To their credit, the culpable Bears receivers took the heat and vowed to move on.
“We definitely left some plays on the field,” Meredith said. “When it mattered most, we didn’t show up. I think that’s what we need to work on.”
“We’re all upset as a receiving corps — it was in our hands we didn’t answer the call,” Wilson said. “So it’s on us. We just have to work at it and get better.”
And even Bellamy won’t stay down for long.
“The sun’s going to come up tomorrow,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep going.”