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Bears drop defensive battle to Broncos

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The Bears came up one play short Sunday, losing a defensive battle to the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos 17-15 at Soldier Field.

Trailing ever since they fell behind 7-0 just 2:46 into the first quarter, the Bears finally scored their first touchdown of the game on Jeremy Langford's 2-yard run with :24 remaining.

But on the subsequent two-point conversion the Bears needed to tie the score, Langford took a handoff and was stopped well short of the goal line. The Broncos recovered Robbie Gould's ensuing onside kick to clinch the victory, snapping the Bears' two-game winning streak.

"On the two-point conversion, I have to do a better job of getting two yards," said Langford, who was held to 25 yards on 13 carries. "We have to come back, regroup and do better next time."

Trailing 17-9 in the fourth quarter, the Bears (4-6) failed to take advantage of two scoring chances. First, Jay Cutler threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal from the 4 with 10:03 to play after the Bears passed up an opportunity to cut the deficit to 17-12 with a chip-shot field goal.

Asked about the decision, coach John Fox said: "We hadn't made many trips down there and we hadn't scored touchdowns. It had been kind of a field-goal game and at that point in the game we felt that that was going to be maybe our last opportunity, so we were aggressive and came up short on fourth-and-four."

The Bears reached the Denver 33 on their next possession before Von Miller sacked Cutler, forcing a fumble that defensive end Malik Jackson caught in the air.

Playing without No. 1 running back Kyle Long and starting receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, the Bears sputtered on offense most of the game against the NFL's top-ranked defense. They generated only three Gould field goals on their first 10 possessions.

Cutler completed 18 of 32 passes for 265 yards with one interception and a 70.4 passer rating, while the Broncos limited Bears running backs to 61 yards on 12 carries.

"They have good players," said Fox, who coached the Broncos to four straight AFC West titles the past four seasons. "They have good team speed. They have good rushers off the edge and they've got good guys on the outside that cover. I think those are pretty good ingredients for a good defense in the National Football League."

View photos from the game as the Bears take on the Broncos at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Bears defense, meanwhile, kept the game close. After permitting an opening-drive touchdown for the third straight week, the unit held the Broncos to three points on their next seven possessions. In the second half, the Bears stopped Denver twice on third-and-one and once on fourth-and-one.

The Bears recorded a season-high five sacks but yielded 389 total yards. Making his first NFL start in place of the injured Peyton Manning, backup quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 20 of 27 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 127.1 passer rating.

The Broncos entered Week 11 ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing with 86 yards per game, but they compiled 170 yards on 36 carries Sunday. Ronnie Hillman ran for 102 yards on 21 carries, while C.J. Anderson added 59 yards on 12 attempts.

Osweiler's 48-yard TD pass to a wide open Demaryius Thomas gave the Broncos an early 7-0 lead. Gould followed with field goals of 46 and 37 yards to cut the deficit to 7-6 before Brandon McManus' 24-yard field goal widened the margin to 10-6 as time expired in the first half.

Gould's 37-yard field goal drew the Bears to within 10-9 late in the third quarter before the Broncos extended their lead to 17-9 on Osweiler's 10-yard TD pass to Cody Latimer early in the fourth quarter.

Six of the Bears' last seven games have been decided by three points or less, with three wins coming by margins of 2, 1 and 3 points and three losses coming by margins of 3, 3 and 2 points.

"That's a good team, but I think we let it get away from us," Cutler said after Sunday's loss. "That's kind of been the story all year. There have been a few games that we've lost in the fourth quarter and we felt like we've been right there. You can put this one in the same box as those.

"Our margin for error isn't that great. We've got to play pretty good football for four quarters and we've got to play really good football in the fourth quarter. In the games that we've won, we figured out a way to do that. In the games that we've lost, we haven't."

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