All week, the Bears vowed to make some noise in the 86th season opener in franchise history.
Instead, they couldn't hear because of it.
Kyle Orton, the first rookie quarterback to start a Bears opener since Zeke Bratkowski in 1954, had his helmet headset go dead for one series.
Three straight false-start penalties that killed a potential go-ahead scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter were blamed in part on the rabid crowd of 90,138 at FedEx Field, the NFL stadium with the largest capacity.
And when the wall of sound subsided and a 9-7 loss to Washington rang in their ears, the Bears were left to spit out defiance and raw emotion in a pin-drop-quiet locker room.
Safety Mike Brown cut short his first answer to choke back tears.
"We lost the game for two reasons," a visibly emotional Brown said. "We couldn't stop the run, and we couldn't get off the field on third down. It's extremely disappointing. All that talking we were doing, we didn't back it up. I feel like we let our team down."
The defense, porous as it was in allowing 323 yards to last season's 30th-ranked offense, had company.
The Orton-led offense managed just 166 yards and three first-half first downs and scored its only touchdown on a short drive set up by a special-teams turnover on the second-half kickoff.
A running game that looked so efficient in exhibition games disappeared, gaining just 41 yards and averaging 2.3 yards per carry.
And the back-to-back-to-back penalties on veteran linemen Fred Miller, John Tait and Ruben Brown killed a second straight fourth-quarter drive that had either reached or neared field-goal range, the previous ending on an Orton interception.
"We stopped ourselves half the time," said Orton, who finished 15-for-28 for 141 yards and a 52.8 passer rating. "I'm not taking anything away from their defense. They caused a lot of it. But there were plays to be made, and we didn't make them."
John Hall's 19-yard field goal with 2 minutes 54 seconds remaining in the third quarterhis third of the game on a drive kept alive when a Clinton Portis fumble bounced right back to himwere the final points scored and came on the possession after the Bears had taken their first lead.
They had two chances to take another.
On the ensuing drive, Orton found fellow rookie Mark Bradley for a 22-yard gain. One play later, working from the Washington 22, Orton tried to force a pass to Muhsin Muhammad, who was surrounded by four Redskins.
Ex-Bear Warrick Holdman deflected the ball high into the air, where fellow Washington linebacker Lemar Marshall intercepted it in the end zone.
"I shouldn't have thrown it," Orton said. "First-and-10, you have to take your checkdown, especially when we were in field-goal position."
After linebacker Brian Urlacher helped snuff the ensuing Washington drive with a tackle for loss and a sack on back-to-back plays, the Bears found themselves knocking on field-goal position again.
Starting from the Bears' 25, Orton found tight end Desmond Clark and Muhammad to convert consecutive third-down chances. A 9-yard pass play to Bernard Berrian got the Bears to the Washington 34, close enough for kicker Doug Brien to begin warming up.
But Thomas Jones, who managed just 31 yards on 15 carries, got stopped for a 3-yard loss. And then Miller, Tait and Brown's false-start follies preceded a sack of Orton, pushing the Bears all the way back to their own 38.
Good things don't usuallyand didn'tcome from a third-and-38 situation.
"The crowd was loud the entire time, but you can't just blame it on that," coach Lovie Smith said. "That's on us. We have to concentrate better. You have to be able to sit there in critical situations like that."
Washington defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin sacked Orton for the third and final time with 92 seconds left, forcing a fumble that Griffin recovered to bring even more noise.
Portis' 121 rushing yards and a big day by receiver Santana Moss96 yards on four catchescontributed to the loss, which wasted several big plays.
Nathan Vasher ended Washington's first possession with an interception and had anotherand a 55-yard returnnullified by Mike Green's pass-interference penalty.
Lance Briggs knocked starting quarterback Patrick Ramsey out of the game with a second-quarter sack that forced a fumble recovered by Tommie Harris.
Special-teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo poked the ball free from Antonio Brown on the second-half kickoff, and linebacker Joe Odom pounced on it to set up the lone scoring drive.
And Orton found his footing after a slow start, passing for five first downs on third-down conversion chances in the second half.
"I wasn't nervous in the first half," Orton said. "There just wasn't a lot there."
Added Muhammad: "I like his confidence. I like the fact that he was never shaken at any point. If he can play that well against a defense as exotic as this one, he's going to be all right."
Muhammad paused and offered one last bit of noise. Only time will tell if his words are hollow or ring true.
"I came out last season 1-7 and almost made the playoffs [with Carolina]," he said. "Hopefully after this one loss nobody's falling off the bandwagon because we still have a pretty good team."
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