The Bears may have generated some positive vibes from playing better than expected in their season-opening loss to the Packers, but that wasn't the case a week later.
In what seemed like déjà vu from the disappointing 2014 season, the Bears defense provided little resistance in a 48-23 loss to the Cardinals Sunday at Soldier Field, yielding four touchdowns on five possessions during one span.
Making matters worse, Jay Cutler exited late in the first half with a hamstring injury he suffered on safety Tony Jefferson's 26-yard interception return touchdown. After throwing behind Martellus Bennett on the play, Cutler sprinted a few steps toward the sideline and then tried to make a diving tackle, landing hard on his right shoulder.
It's unclear how severe the injury is or how long Cutler will be sidelined.
"I don't have any updates on that," coach John Fox told reporters shortly after the game. "It takes a while to run tests. Our medical people will inform me and then I will inform you. But at this point, he's got a pulled hamstring."
Cutler had looked sharp prior to the interception, completing 8 of 8 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown and leading the Bears in rushing with 24 yards. Even after the pick, he left the game with an impressive 116.2 passer rating.
The Bears defense was no match for the Cardinals, however. Carson Palmer passed for 185 yards with four touchdowns, one interception and a 115.5 passer rating. Eight-time Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald had three TD receptions for the first time in his illustrious 12-year NFL career.
The Bears allowed touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams Sunday. They started the game in the worst possible way, permitting dynamic rookie David Johnson to return the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown.
"It's just us," said receiver Joshua Bellamy, who's part of the kickoff coverage team. "We've got to play harder to the ball. We've got to get off of blocks. We're kind of young on that, but that's not an excuse. We've just got to make plays."
The Bears continually shot themselves in the foot, committing 14 penalties for 170 yards. Pass interference penalties of 42 yards against Kyle Fuller and 38 yards on Alan Ball set up Arizona's first two offensive touchdowns.
"Downfield penalties were a huge problem," Fox said. "It's something we need to improve, obviously."
With the defeat, the Bears dropped to 0-2 for the first time since Dick Jauron's final season as coach in 2003 and extended their losing streak to seven games dating back to last year. The 48 points were the most they've ever allowed at home in franchise history.
After Johnson's kickoff return quieted the Soldier Field crowd, the Bears pumped life back into the stadium when Cutler lofted a 48-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Bellamy, tying the score 7-7 late in the first quarter.
The Cardinals grabbed a 14-7 lead on Palmer's 6-yard TD pass to Jaron Brown. But the Bears answered as rookie running back Jeremy Langford's 1-yard TD plunge tied it 14-14.
Arizona then took control with two touchdowns in a span of :52, widening the margin to 28-14 on Palmer's 8-yard pass to Fitzgerald and Jefferson's interception return.
Even with Cutler out of the game, the Bears didn't fold. They generated a pair of takeaways in the final 1:15 of the half as Jacquizz Rodgers recovered a muffed punt at the Arizona 22 and Jared Allen deflected and intercepted a Palmer pass at the Arizona 12.
But on both occasions, the Bears were forced to settle for Robbie Gould field goals of 40 and 23 yards, cutting the deficit to 28-20 at halftime.
The Cardinals all but clinched the victory by scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions of the third quarter to take a commanding 42-20 lead.
After Cutler exited, the Bears struggled with replacement Jimmy Clausen under center, failing to get into the end zone on their final nine possessions. Clausen completed 14 of 23 passes for 121 yards with one interception and a 56.6 passer rating.
"Any time you put a quarterback in the game who has had backup reps during the week, I think it's tough for any position, but particularly for a quarterback," Fox said. "But I think all-in-all he did the best he could, and that's all you can ask for as a coach."