The Bears' unpredictable up-and-down season continued Sunday at Soldier Field as they followed their best performance of the year a week earlier in Atlanta with one of their worst.
With the offense mustering just 54 yards and two first downs in the first half, the Bears fell behind 14-0 at halftime and never recovered in a disappointing 27-14 loss to the Dolphins.
"Today was an unacceptable performance by our football team," said coach Marc Trestman. "The guys worked very hard this week. We came to work today and we didn't get it done.
Week 7: Bears vs. Dolphins
"I think we were ready to play. And that starts with me because we didn't get it done and we didn't execute, particularly offensively. But collectively—because it is a continuity game—we didn't get the job done and that starts with me coaching these guys and getting ready to play."
Sunday was the first time the Bears have been shut out in the first half in 23 games under Trestman.
"It was totally disappointing," he said. "We couldn't put any drives together. We put our defense in a bad way. They were on the field for far too long. We just couldn't get any continuity going with our plays. As I said, it starts with me that we didn't get it done."
The Bears lost the turnover battle 3-0, giving the Dolphins the ball following two fumbles and an interception at the Chicago 23, 16 and 35. In losing their first three home games this season, the Bears have generated one takeaway and committed eight turnovers.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed his first 14 passes and finished the game connecting on 25 of 32 attempts for 277 yards with two touchdowns and a 123.6 passer rating. Tannehill also rushed for 48 yards on six carries, including a 30-yarder that set up a touchdown.
"We got to him early," said linebacker Shea McClellin. "But he definitely did a great job passing and running the ball, too. We just didn't execute."
The Bears offense awoke from its slumber in the second half, scoring two TDs to cut the margin to 14-7 midway through the third quarter and 24-14 halfway through the fourth period. But the Dolphins responded both times, widening their lead to 21-7 with a TD and 27-14 with a field goal.
With the loss, the Bears (3-4) dropped two games behind the co-leaders in the NFC North, the Packers (5-2) and Lions (5-2), both of whom won at home Sunday.
"The Chicago Bears should not be 3-4 right now," said receiver Brandon Marshall. "It's absolutely unacceptable, and it starts with the offensive side of the ball."
"The second half of the season [is looming] and we've just got to figure this out," added quarterback Jay Cutler. "We've got to play better or we're going to end up 8-8."
Two bright spots for the Bears were provided by defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who recorded 3.5 sacks; and running back Kyle Long, who generated 109 yards from scrimmage (49 rushing and 60 receiving) and scored both Bears TDs on a 10-yard catch and 1-yard run.
The Dolphins (3-3) took a 7-0 lead on Tannehill's 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Charles Clay with 6:51 left in the first quarter, capping an 8-play, 83-yard drive.
Later in the half, Cutler's pass intended for a well-covered Martellus Bennett was intercepted by safety Reshad Jones, who returned it 50 yards. The pick set up Tannehill's 10-yard TD pass to Mike Wallace, giving the Dolphins a 14-0 lead with 5:20 left in the first half.
After Cutler dropped back to pass on 16 of 18 plays in the first half, the Bears featured Forte on the opening possession of the second half, and it paid dividends. He had seven carries for 33 yards and caught a 10-yard TD pass from Cutler to cut the deficit in half at 14-7.
But the Dolphins widened the margin to 24-7 on Lamar Miller's 2-yard TD run and Caleb Sturgis' 33-yard field goal. The Bears climbed to within 24-14 on Forte's 1-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left in the game, but that was as close as they would get.
"We should be playing a lot better at this point in the season," Trestman said. "You leave Atlanta [after last Sunday's win] and you're feeling like you're going in the right direction, you go to work and then come out and perform in this fashion. It obviously just wasn't good enough. That's a very sick locker room right now in terms of how we played."