CINCINNATI – The Bears were their own worst enemy Saturday night in Cincinnati, committing 12 penalties for 117 yards in a 21-10 preseason loss to the Bengals.
The offense was the main culprit, drawing seven flags—four for holding and three for false starts. The penalties repeatedly stalled drives by putting the Bears in third-and-unmanageable situations.
The No. 1 offense exited in the third quarter after six possessions culminated in five punts and a field goal. On four drives, the Bears failed to pick up a first down and were forced to punt after three penalties and a sack resulted in situations of first-and-20, third-and-20, second-and-14 and third-and-11.
"We were killing ourselves with penalties," said quarterback Jay Cutler. "We had second-and-long. We had third-and-long. We were making it tough on [offensive coordinator] Adam [Gase]. It's hard to dial up plays at that point. Offensively, we've got a lot of room for improvement."
The Bears converted just 2-of-11 third-down opportunities, a porous 18 percent success rate that had more to do with going in reverse due to penalties than anything the Bengals did defensively.
"I felt good," said Cutler, who completed 13 of 17 passes for 98 yards and an 89.8 passer rating. "There was nothing that came across my plate that I wasn't ready for, prepared for. It's just whenever you're second-and-20 or you're third-and-15, there's not a lot you can do.
"You don't want to force the ball down the field. You don't want to do anything stupid. We were taking what they were giving us at that point and forcing ourselves to punt. We've just got to do better on first and second down and give ourselves manageable third downs. If we don't do that we're not going to have a shot."
While the Bears struggled on third down, the Bengals converted 8-of-14 chances. That enabled Cincinnati to sustain drives and run 19 more plays than the Bears. Both teams averaged 3.7 yards per rush, but the Bengals outgained the Bears on the ground 145-67 primarily because they had 21 more attempts (39-18).
The Bears played without injured top receivers Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson and Kevin White. Unheralded youngsters Joshua Bellamy and Rashad Lawrence started Saturday night's game. But Cutler wasn't using that as an excuse.
"I thought the guys on the outside did a good job," he said. "When their numbers were called they got open, they did what they were supposed to do. We didn't have any busts out there.
"We've got a lot of stuff we've got to clean up inside. I know the offensive line's not happy with their performance. Any time we got a little rhythm going it seemed like we pushed ourselves back, so it makes it hard."