Playing with a makeshift offensive line due to injuries, the Bears continued to struggle on offense in a disappointing 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday in Nashville.
The offense converted just 2-of-15 third-down opportunities (13.3 percent) against the NFL's lowest-ranked third-down defense, didn't reach the red zone until the fourth quarter and committed two turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
The Bears wasted a strong performance by the defense, which allowed just 228 total yards and 11 first downs, the fewest in both categories this season. The unit held NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry to 68 yards on 21 carries and limited Ryan Tannehill to 10 of 21 passing for 158 yards.
The Titans took control of the game in the middle of the second quarter and never relinquished it, leading 10-0 at halftime, 17-0 entering the fourth quarter and 24-3 midway through the final period. The Bears scored two late touchdowns on Nick Foles passes of 6 yards to Ryan Nall and 8 yards to Jimmy Graham. But the Titans recovered an onside kick with 1:04 remaining to clinch the win.
Foles completed 36 of 52 passes for 335 yards and a 99.4 passer rating. The Bears running game was limited to 56 yards on 20 carries, with David Montgomery held to 30 yards on 14 attempts for an average of 2.1 yards per carry.
The Bears offense played without starting linemen James Daniels, Cody Whitehair and Bobby Massie and reserves Sam Mustipher and Jason Spriggs. First-year pro Alex Bars and rookie seventh-round pick Arlington Hambright made their first NFL starts at center and left guard, respectively.
With their third straight loss, the Bears (5-4) fell a game-and-a-half behind the first-place Packers (6-2) in the NFC North.
In the first half of Sunday's game, the defense registered three sacks of Tannehill and held Henry to just 26 yards on 13 carries with a long run of only six yards.
But the offense continued to sputter, generating just 105 yards on 29 plays and picking up only three first downs—one on a fake punt. The Bears converted 0-of-8 third-down plays and their leading rusher at halftime was linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who gained 11 yards on the fake punt.
The Bears had a golden opportunity to score late in the first half, when the Titans punted from their own 2. The offense took over at the Tennessee 48 but went in reverse, drawing back-to-back penalties for a false start on Charles Leno Jr. and an illegal use of the hands on Rashaad Coward.
The Titans took a 3-0 lead on Stephen Gostkowski's 40-yard field goal with 4:22 left in the first quarter, The key play on the drive was Tannehill's 38-yard pass to A.J. Brown. Eddie Jackson missed a tackle, costing about 20 yards on the play. But the veteran safety redeemed himself with a clutch third-down pass breakup, forcing the Titans to settle for the field goal.
The Bears dipped into their bag of tricks early in the second period, calling a fake punt on fourth-and-6 from their own 36. DeAndre Houston-Carson took the direct snap and handed off to Mingo, who raced around right end with J.P. Holtz leading the way, picking up the first down.
The Titans later followed with a 12-play, 91-yard drive capped by Tannehill's 40-yard touchdown pass to Brown, widening the margin to 10-0 with 4:39 left in the first half. Brown beat tight coverage by Buster Skrine to haul in the perfectly-thrown pass down the left sideline.
Tennessee extended its lead to 17-0 with 4:41 remaining in the third quarter as cornerback Desmond King returned a Montgomery fumble 63 yards for a touchdown. The fumble was forced by defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons after a short reception on third-and-13.
The Bears got on the board as Cairo Santos' 22-yard field goal cut the deficit to 17-3 with 12:30 left in the fourth quarter. On their first red-zone possession of the game, they settled for the kick after failing to score a touchdown on three plays from the 4.
The Titans answered immediately with an 8-play, 76-yard drive capped by Tannehill's 2-yard TD pass to tight end Jonnu Smith, widening the margin to 24-3 with 8:10 to play before the Bears closed the gap with two late touchdowns.
See the game unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers as the Bears face off against the Titans on the road in Nashville, Tennessee.