The Bears offense appeared to be rolling midway through the second quarter of Sunday's contest against Carolina. Running back Kyle Long had just reeled off a 56-yard gain on a screen pass, giving Chicago a first down at the Panthers' 24-yard line. With a 21-7 lead already in place, the Bears seemingly needed just one more score to blow the game wide open. That score never came. The Bears ended up with no points on that drive after Robbie Gould missed a field goal and only three points the rest of the game, as they fell to the Panthers 31-24 in an important Week 5 contest. The failure to capitalize on the big play was one of many missed opportunities for the offense, which continued a trend of poor play in the second half of games.
"You look at after the game the reasons why you didn't finish," coach Marc Trestman said following the loss. "Was it something they did? With all the respect in the world to what they did defensively – because (the Panthers) played very well – is that we have to do our job. We have to make sure we take control of our job, are consistent with our fundamentals and our techniques and where we are supposed to line up.
"That's something, when we look at the game (on Monday), we'll have a better idea why those situations occurred (during the game)."
Chicago scored three total points on its final eight offensive drives of the game, not counting the kneel-down Jay Cutler took at the end of the second quarter heading into halftime. Gould's miss from 35 yards cost the Bears three points to start the drought, but there other wasted opportunities, even on that drive. The inability of any of Forte's teammates to throw one more block to clear him to the end zone hurt the Bears on the scoreboard, even if the kicker had been able to convert.
In the second half, the Bears offense crossed midfield only once, on an eight-play, 58-yard drive that resulted in a 45-yard field goal by Gould. Three of their drives in the half ended on punts, the other three on turnovers, another situation where missed opportunities cost the team.
Following a Carolina punt midway through the fourth quarter, Cutler overthrew Santonio Holmes and was intercepted by Thomas DeCoud, setting up the Panthers to hit the game-tying field goal. On the opening play of the Bears' next offensive drive, Forte was stripped, giving the ball back to Carolina before Cam Newton threw the go-ahead touchdown pass.
The Bears had once more chance to tie, taking over possession with 2:18 remaining. But after a pair of completions, Cutler was sacked twice to end the drive, and essentially the game.
"There were many opportunities for us to close this out offensively," Cutler said. "We put our defense in a bad spot, I thought they played really well given the circumstances and some of the field position we put them in. Offensively, a lot of that is on me.
"We just have to play better."
The offensive struggles are nothing new for Chicago. Since the opening posession of the third quarter in the Week 3 victory over the Jets – a drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Martellus Bennett - the Bears have had 15 second-half drives (not counting kneel-downs) versus New York, Green Bay and Carolina. Two of those drives ended with field goals, the other 13 with either punts, turnovers or the game clock running out.
In the fourth quarter alone against the Panthers, the Bears ran 18 plays and gained 27 net yards. For a team that prides itself on being able to execute offensively with a wide variety of weapons, the poor play by the unit at the end of games is both baffling and troubling.
"We've struggled at times, and that's what we have to continue to focus on," Trestman said. "We've had a lot of very consistent moments, and then we've gone inconsistent… certainly in the second half. So it's something that we have to continue to work on and get better at.
"We still haven't put four quarters together. We've put some good quarters together, but we haven't put four quarters together yet."
With 11 regular season games to go, there will be plenty of other opportunities for the offense to deliver. On Sunday against Carolina, the unit couldn't come through. The rest of the season could be a different story.
"Win or lose this game, obviously we lost, we just have to get back," Cutler said. "It's a one-game season next week versus Atlanta, we have to get ready for them."