‘A dumb mistake’: Tarik Cohen’s muffed punt typifies Bears’ tough day

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Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans hauls in a touchdown pass from Jameis Winson, one play after Bears rookie Tarik Cohen muffed a punt. It gave the Bucs a 10-0 lead with 10 seconds left in the first quarter. (Jason Behnken/AP)

TAMPA, Fla. — What were you thinking, Tarik Cohen?

“I was trying to stop the bleeding of the ball,” Cohen said about his ill-advised attempt to field a dying punt that turned into a disastrous muff and a turnover. “Give credit to the [Buccaneers’] gunners. As soon as I attacked the ball, they attacked me, so they got the ball out. I’ve got to do better and let it bleed sometimes and make better decisions back there.”

Cohen’s gaffe wasn’t the first mistake the Bears made Sunday and certainly not the last in their 29-7 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. And it wasn’t even the most egregious on a day when quarterback Mike Glennon threw a pick-six to Robert McClain. But it was emblematic of the kind of day of dashed hopes it was for the Bears. An opportunity for something good turned into disaster.

The Bears, trailing 3-0, were about to get the ball back with a little momentum late in the first quarter after the defense forced a three-and-out following Glennon’s first interception. Bryan Anger’s shanked punt looked like another break, but the ball bounced at the 23-yard line and inside the 15. It looked like it was about to die when Cohen quickly tried to pick it up with three Buccaneers surrounding him.

Cohen was hit by Ryan Smith immediately and never gained possession. Cameron Lynch recovered at the Bears’ 13-yard line, and Jameis Winston threw a touchdown pass to Mike Evans on the next play to give the Bucs a 10-0 lead.

The 5-6 Cohen’s natural inclination is to be aggressive and make things happen. But to his credit, he owned the mistake and acknowledged he was trying to do too much. Ten times out of 10, you let that ball die. And Cohen knew it.

“In that situation,’’ Cohen said, ‘‘[with] how close the gunners were and the fact that I had already killed the ball so my [support] wasn’t around me . . . that was a dumb mistake. If I had to do it again, I would just stay away from the ball.”

Cohen’s misplay was one of several regrettable errors by the Bears that made them look like a poorly coached team — and none of the others could be rationalized as a rookie mistake. Three times, the Bears had third-down stops nullified by penalties — two holding calls on veteran inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and one by veteran outside linebacker Willie Young. The Bears also had to call a timeout on their second offensive play.

Trevathan’s first infraction — he held tight end Cameron Brate on the Bucs’ opening drive — led to a field goal that gave the Buccaneers a 3-0 lead. Trevathan’s second holding call on a third-and-six incompletion and Young’s hold after Winston was tackled at the Bears’ 3 on third-and-goal led to a touchdown that gave the Bucs a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.

“Penalties killed us; I killed us,” Trevathan said. “On the first one, I probably did give [Brate] a little shove. The second one, it was just me, and him running into me. I’ve got to learn to keep my hands in and get back better. I’m usually good at that. I’m disappointed in myself. But I’ll get better.”

Young was perplexed about his infraction because he didn’t know what he did wrong.

“I had no idea,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t find out [about the penalty] until, like, two series after it happened.’’

It was that kind of day.

“We’ve just got to be better,” Young said. “I guess I’ve got to figure out how not to hold. I [remember] the play. But that was just . . . one of those things.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com


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