The Bears produced a huge play on special teams early in Sunday's game against the Patriots, but two miscues by the "third phase" proved costly in a 38-31 loss.
Late in the first quarter with the Bears trailing 7-3, Nick Kwiatkoski stripped the ball from kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Houston-Carson recovered the fumble at the New England 36.
The takeaway eventually led to Mitchell Trubisky's 8-yard touchdown run, which gave the Bears a 10-7 lead.
Unfortunately, the Bears later allowed two touchdowns on special teams. First, Patterson made amends for his fumble by returning a kickoff 95 yards for a TD, drawing the Patriots to within 17-14 early in the second quarter.
Kevin Toliver II had the best chance to tackle Patterson, but the veteran return specialist sidestepped the undrafted rookie. "It's not hard," Toliver said. "It's football. It's a football play, and I have to make that play next time."
With the game tied 24-24 midway through the third quarter, Dont'a Hightower blocked a Pat O'Donnell punt and Kyle Van Noy returned it 29 yards for a touchdown, giving the Patriots a 31-24 lead they would not relinquish.
On the ground: While Trubisky rushed for a career 81 yards and one touchdown on six carries, running backs Jordan Howard (12 attempts for 39 yards) and Tarik Cohen (6-14) were held to a combined 53 yards on 18 carries.
"Our run game needs to improve," said coach Matt Nagy. "We've got some yards with [Trubisky] running the ball, but to me that's a scramble, and that's him making something happen. That's him growing as a quarterback, but our run game has to get better. It's everybody, and we just need to figure out how we can do that, what's best for us identity-wise, and it's not one person."
Playing with pain: The three Bears players who were listed as questionable on the injury report all played in Sunday's game. But none made a major impact. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack (ankle) was limited to one tackle, nickel back Bryce Callahan (knee) had three tackles and receiver Allen Robinson II (groin) caught one pass for four yards.
Big numbers: The Bears have lost their last two games to the Dolphins and Patriots despite their offense generating 920 yards and eight touchdowns while converting 16-of-28 (57.1 percent) of their third-down plays.
News and notes: Tight end Trey Burton caught a career-high nine passes for 126 yards, his first 100-yard performance in five NFL seasons. … The Bears remain the only NFL team not to allow a rushing touchdown this season. … The Bears have recorded an interception in each of their first six games for the first time since 2012. … Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith recorded the Bears' only sack of the game, his second of the season. The Bears now have one sack in their last two games after registering 18 in their first four contests.