NEW ORLEANS – The Bears overcame key injuries and a controversial replay reversal to put themselves in position to win Sunday's game in New Orleans, but their late rally came up short.
The Saints escaped with a 20-12 victory, but not before the Bears had threatened to rally from a 17-6 fourth-quarter deficit. After Tarik Cohen's 1-yard touchdown dive closed the gap to 17-12, the Bears defense forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions late in the fourth quarter.
But the offense failed to capitalize on both occasions. The unit turned the ball over on downs with 1:51 remaining on a Mitchell Trubisky incomplete pass on fourth-and-one from the Chicago 39—and after a Saints field goal—on a Trubisky interception with 1:11 to play.
"All-in-all I thought it was a great effort by our football team," said coach John Fox. "We had plenty of opportunities. We just came up a little short."
The Bears seemingly had scored their first touchdown of the game with 5:47 left in the third quarter on Trubisky's 25-yard pass to Zach Miller. The veteran tight end suffered a gruesome dislocated knee on the play and was carted off the field. Adding insult to injury, the TD was overturned to an incomplete pass after referee Carl Cheffers ruled that Miller did not complete the process of the catch because he let go of the ball while writhing in pain on the ground.
"We ruled that he was going to the ground as part of the process of the catch," Cheffers told a pool reporter. "So when he goes to the ground, he has to survive the ground. He went to the ground, he temporarily lost control of the ball. The ball hit the ground; therefore it's incomplete."
The Bears amassed 307 total yards and converted 8-of-17 third-down opportunities (47 percent), but mustered just one touchdown. Cohen's TD was the first by the offense in 25 possessions dating back to the third quarter of the team's Week 6 overtime win in Baltimore.
The Bears left points on the field Sunday, settling for Connor Barth's 27-yard field goal early in the second period after they had first-and-goal at the 6. Barth later hooked a 48-yard attempt wide left with :22 remaining in the first half after Cohen had been dropped for a three-yard loss and Trubisky had been sacked for a loss of five.
Another critical mistake on special teams also cost the Bears points on the game's opening possession. With Wil Lutz attempting a 32-yard field goal on fourth-and-five, Kyle Fuller was penalized for lining up offside, resulting in a first down. The Saints converted the miscue into Alvin Kamara's 8-yard touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead.
Trubisky completed 14 of 32 passes for 164 yards with one interception and a 46.9 passer rating. His top target was receiver Tre McBride III, who caught three passes for 92 yards. Trubisky also had a 46-yard scramble on third-and-10 that helped set up Cohen's touchdown.
Jordan Howard rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries, including a 50-yard burst from his own 3 that led to Barth's 44-yard field goal, which drew the Bears to within 14-6 in the third quarter.
After generating three takeaways in each of the last two games, the Bears defense gave the offense a chance to rally by forcing two fourth-quarter turnovers Sunday.
First, Jonathan Bullard stripped Mark Ingram and Christian Jones recovered at the Bears' 28 with 7:32 remaining. Later, Adrian Amos ripped the ball away from Ingram and returned the fumble four yards to the Chicago 30 with 2:12 to play.
"I think our defense has been pretty salty for a month now," Fox said. "Today was no different as far as taking the ball away and putting it back in our offense's hands."
The defense did struggle, however, to contain Drew Brees. The future Hall of Fame quarterback completed 23 of 29 passes for 299 yards and a stellar 111.2 passer rating.
Sunday's loss dropped the Bears' to 3-5 entering their bye week, snapping a two-game winning streak. Their next contest is scheduled for Nov. 12 against the Packers at Soldier Field.
"I think our whole football team competed very hard," Fox said. "I'm proud of that. I told them to walk out of here with their heads high. We've got a bye week this week. We've got a chance to get some guys healthy. We've got some young guys plugged in, including Mitch. It will give us an opportunity to get up to speed and get better through that time."