ST. LOUIS – The Bears’ defense got almost a half hour of rest in the fourth quarter, and when they returned to the field for the biggest drive of the game, they did what they had done all game – fell flat.
In a 42-21 loss to the Rams, the Bears’ run defense put up historic numbers for how poorly it defended Rams backs Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham, but their offense (and the officials) gave them some time to breathe and regroup in the fourth quarter.
Approximately 24 minutes passed between Devin Hester’s punt-return touchdown that was called back and Michael Bush’s touchdown that cut the Rams’ lead to 27-21, the closest the Bears had been since the start of the game.
On the game clock, only 7:45 elapsed, but with a TV timeout thrown in, the Bears’ defense had almost twice as long as halftime to prepare to make a stop.
“The mentality was look, go out there and get a stop, get them the ball back,” said linebacker James Anderson. “Those guys are rolling. We can come back and win this game. Get a stop.”
“We just knew we had to play better,” said safety Chris Conte.
On the Rams’ second play, with 6:39 left in the game, Benny Cunningham got past the first level on the right side and broke free for 27 yards. A penalty set the Rams back 10 yards, but then Kellen Clemens found Jared Cook for a 29-yard gain.
Instead of holding St. Louis to a field goal, Cunningham rushed it in from nine yards out on 3rd-and-2, putting the game out of reach.
“It goes back to the offensive line. That’s a veteran group. We knew ‘Hey, let’s just go down. Let’s get points. Take it one play at a time,’” Clemens told reporters about that drive. “And they did a great job, ran the ball well on the last drive. Benny obviously makes the great run and we go in to get six.”
For Josh McCown, who had an outstanding game up to that point, it meant making up a 14-point deficit in three minutes.
“One play at a time. Try to get another score,” he said about his thought process when returning to the field. “That’s all you can think of, how can we stretch this thing back, get back in the endzone.”
McCown was strip-sacked, and the Rams returned it for a touchdown.
Cunningham, an undrafted rookie out of Middle Tennessee State, was clearly also well rested during the Bears’ long scoring drive. He replaced an injured Zac Stacy and gashed the Bears for 8.4 yards a carry.
“To win games, you have to be able to stop the run,” said Corey Wootton. “We haven’t been doing it. It’s very frustrating. Every week we’re talking about this, starting fast, and every week it’s the same result. We must make corrections if we want to win games.”
Gutsy call: Marc Trestman defended his decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal after halftime. “This was a bit of a track meet out there today and I know that those three points seem like a lot, but I am very confident that it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Quick hits: Earl Bennett had his most productive game, catching all eight passes thrown his way for 58 yards. ... After his best game of the season, Julius Peppers finished with one tackle and one QB hit.