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Valiant Bears defense rues fourth-quarter lapse

Shades of the playoff loss, the Eagles stepped it up in crunch time Sunday and the Bears’ previously staunch defense suddenly had no answer.

Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) gained 16 yards to the Bears’ 28-yard-line on this reception from Carson Wentz for a crucial third-and-nine conversion with 2:15 to play in the Eagles 22-14 victory Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA — It was a simple mistake, one that Danny Trevathan doesn’t make often but did at the most inopportune time Sunday against the Eagles.

“I just had bad eyes,” Trevathan said. “That’s it.”

The Bears linebacker was caught out of position on third-and-12 from the Eagles’ 29-yard line with 4:44 to play — the best opportunity the Bears’ defense had for a stop that would give Mitch Trubisky and a suddenly warmed-up Bears offense a chance to steal a victory.

But Carson Wentz’s perfectly executed screen pass to running back Miles Sanders left Trevathan in no-man’s land and Sanders with room to run. He gained 15 yards for a crushing first down that told the tale of the clinching final possession.

The Eagles, who had converted 4 of 13 third-down plays to that point, converted four in a row during a 16-play, 69-yard drive that took up 8:14 of the final 8:40. The Bears’ eventual stop was too late. Jake Elliott’s 38-yard field goal with 25 seconds left all but sealed the Bears’ fate in a 22-14 loss at Lincoln Financial Field.

“It’s a play I gotta make,” Trevathan said of the third-and-12 screen to Sanders. “It’s a play I always make. I just gotta make it. I have to be better at my job, just like a lot of people have to be better at their job, including you.”

Trevathan’s error wasn’t egregious. In fact, there did not appear to be any overt malfunctions on the key plays of the final drive. Just as they did in the playoff game in January, the Eagles turned it up a notch in crunch time and outplayed and outfoxed the Bears.

“They kind of opened up their playbook,” defensive tackle Nick Williams said.

“Good play-calling and good execution,” cornerback Kyle Fuller said. “We just didn’t execute as well.”

Before the final drive, the Bears had forced three consecutive punts and held the Eagles to 23 yards on 14 plays, as Trubisky and the offense regained the momentum with two touchdowns to cut the deficit to 19-14.

It was the same way in January, when the Bears’ defense forced three consecutive punts in the second half. But after the Bears took the lead, the Eagles stepped it up in the final 4:48 and the Bears had no answer.

They did it again Sunday.

“You’re exactly right,” said cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “When it’s times like that in the game . . . our offense is going, we’re in the fourth quarter, we just scored and I’m wondering, ‘Are they going to run-run-pass? Are they going to start getting into their four-minute conservative mode? They did a great job mixing it up, throwing some passes and some runs.”

Amukamara had his own play to lament. On third-and-three from the Eagles’ 18, Wentz threw a 17-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery behind Amukamara and in front of safety Eddie Jackson.

“Me and Eddie were in cover-2, and Carson rolled out and put it right on Alshon’s body in between us,” Amukamara said. “I feel like that play, they kind of had that in their pocket. Football has always been a game of chess, and it was a great call.”

The Bears didn’t win the chess match, but they didn’t get the breaks, either. Williams disputed a roughing-the-passer call in the first half that nullified a fourth-and-one incompletion and led to Wentz’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz.

“I felt it was a bad call, but the refs called it,” said Williams. “I didn’t land on him or anything like that. To see the flag was kind of surprising.”

It’s 2019. There isn’t much players like Williams can do.

“I guess not try to affect the throw, so he can complete it,” Williams said with a chuckle. “Next time I’ll probably do the same thing — and they probably won’t call it.”