For more than three quarters, a short-handed Bears defense was doing the job it was supposed to do against Tyler Huntley. And then, it all came apart.
“It’s sickening,” linebacker Robert Quinn said after the Ravens drove 72 yards on five plays in the final 1:33 for a touchdown that beat the Bears 16-13 on Sunday at Soldier Field. “It’s a punch to the gut. We had the lead. The Ravens had the ball. It was on our defense to close it out, and we didn’t do it. Yeah, it’s a gut punch.”
On a third-and-12 play from the Bears’ 32-yard line and the Bears leading 13-9 with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter, a miscommunication between safety Deon Bush and nickel back Marqui Christian left Sammy Watkins open for a 29-yard gain to the Bears’ 3-yard line. Running back Devonta Freeman scored on the next play.
“I’ll have to find out what kind of coverage breakdown there was,” coach Matt Nagy said. “They ran a couple of good chunks there with the DPI [a 21-yard pass-interference call on Kindle Vildor] and that one there, as well. I’ll have to look at that later.”
“I wasn’t covering on that play. I have no idea what the coverage was,” said Quinn, who was exceptional with 3½ sacks, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble. “So I couldn’t tell you much about that.”
Answers were hard to come by after the latest collapse. The Bears did not make Vildor, Bush, Christian or any defensive backs available after the game. Nagy had to see the film but at least acknowledged the breakdowns. “Can’t happen. Can’t do it,” he said.
The evidence was on the field. As they positioned themselves near the line of scrimmage on the third-and-12 play, Bush and Christian seemed to get confused over who would cover Watkins and who would cover tight end Mark Andrews. They both went to Andrews, leaving Watkins free. Huntley rolled to his right, and with Quinn bearing down on him, threw to an open Watkins near the right sideline. Bush arrived only in time to knock Watkins out of bounds at the 3.
“I didn’t really see who it was. I just saw a guy wide open,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “Usually those kind of things happen with miscommunication and just not -being detailed. A lot of games in this league are won or lost by you -beating yourself.”
The Bears’ defense did that yet again in incriminating fashion. Until the final drive, they had held the Ravens to 238 yards and 3.4 yards per play. They had sacked Huntley — playing for Lamar Jackson, who was a late scratch because of an illness — six times. Earlier in the fourth quarter, safety Tashaun Gipson stopped a Ravens drive with a nifty interception at the Bears’ 14-yard line.
And after Andy Dalton’s stunning 49-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin gave the Bears a 13-9 lead with 1:41 left, it was time for the Bears’ defense to put the hammer down.
“Roquan [Smith] called us up right before we went out on that drive,” linebacker Travis Gipson said, “and he told us we had to finish the game.”
Instead, the Bears collapsed and let Tyler Huntley beat them. On first-and-10 from the 28 with 1:33 to go, Vildor’s pass-interference infraction against Rashod Batemen went for 21 yards. Even a holding penalty that put the Ravens in the third-and-12 didn’t help the Bears. Somehow, when it came time to win or lose, they forgot to cover Sammy Watkins.
“It sucks,” Ogletree said. “Everyone wants to do the right thing and we all try to. But the great ones do it every single time. Especially in crunch time — that’s when you have to be your best. We just weren’t at our best at the end.”