The Bears trimmed a 27-7 deficit to 27-21 with two fourth-quarter touchdowns before their rally fell short Sunday against the Titans. Here are three things that stood out about the loss:
(1) The Bears dropped 10 passes, the most by an NFL team in a game since Pro Football Focus started tracking the statistic in 2006.
Receivers Joshua Bellamy, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Marquess Wilson and running back Jordan Howard all contributed to the total. The Bears had dropped only 11 passes in their first 10 games this season, making Sunday's performance difficult to explain.
"I have no idea," Thompson said. "I guess it's just coincidence. This group doesn't drop balls. That was the first time we ever came out and performed like that."
"I definitely feel like they're correctable," Howard said Monday. "We've just got to lock in and focus on looking the ball in, just making sure we have it."
The costliest drop came in the game's final minute when a wide open Bellamy failed to hang onto Matt Barkley's perfect pass in the end zone that could have given the Bears the win. While Wilson missed the first nine games of the year with a broken foot, Bellamy and Thompson are primarily special-teams players who were seeing expanded playing time on offense.
"I can honestly say I've been doing this for a long time, no matter what team, even as an assistant coach, and I don't know that I've ever seen receivers catch more balls than I do in practice," said coach John Fox. "I think it's just a matter of being out there more. Marquess Wilson, it was his second game of the season. He hasn't been playing football for months and months. Like everything, if it doesn't go real well, the more you do it, the better you get."
(2) In his first NFL start, Barkley overcame two red-zone interceptions to pass for 316 yards and three touchdowns and nearly led the Bears to a historic comeback win.
Matt Barkley overcame two red-zone interceptions to pass for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
Trailing 27-7 entering the fourth quarter, Barkley engineered drives of 75 and 69 yards capped with touchdown passes of 8 yards to Wilson and 6 yards to Thompson, respectively, to cut the deficit to 27-21. The inexperienced quarterback operated the hurry-up offense like a seasoned veteran, putting the Bears in position to win a game they trailed by 20 points in the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history.
"All I've seen him play, live-action, was a little bit at the end of the half and the second half of the Green Bay game," Fox said. "We didn't have him in preseason, so I wasn't able to see that. Probably much like all his teammates and all the coaches, I think our confidence level is a little bit higher."
Barkley's teammates were impressed with the poise he displayed.
"He was very impressive," Meredith said. "He came out prepared. He put the ball in the right places. We just have to come out and make some better plays next week."
"He did a heck of a job," said tight end Daniel Brown, who caught his first NFL touchdown pass from Barkley in the first quarter. "Stepping in like that and leading a team—we kind of dug ourselves a hole—he kind of rallied us and kept us going. I think it's a testament to him and all the work he's put in."
(3) With virtually no pressure on Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Bears defense failed to record a sack or a takeaway for the second straight game.
Asked about the inability to get to Mariota, Fox cited Tennessee's pass protection and the young quarterback's ability to scramble. Mariota completed 15 of 23 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and a 126.4 passer rating. He also rushed for 46 yards on four attempts.
"That kid's athleticism, the ability of their o-line, they've hung a lot of points on a lot of teams this year," Fox said. "They're a pretty good offense. They do a good job with keeping balance both in the run game and the pass game. He's pretty fleet afoot. I thought that was evident on a couple of occasions."
The lack of impact plays by the defense has hurt both sides of the ball all season. The Bears have generated just eight takeaways in 11 games, tied for the second fewest in the NFL. They've only produced one takeaway in their last four contests, a Harold Jones-Quartey interception Nov. 13 in a loss to the Buccaneers. From 2005-15, they produced 34, 44, 33, 32, 28, 35, 31, 44, 28, 24 and 17 takeaways per season.