Thomas Jones contemplated the wreckage of Sunday's 21-9 loss to Pittsburgh, which convincingly ended the Bears' eight-game winning streak and featured more losses than just the final score.
"Losing a game like this sometimes motivates you," Jones said. "Nobody in this locker room feels good. That feeling makes you hungry. I can't wait to play Atlanta next [Sunday] because I don't like the feeling of losing."
Jones' words marked the most defiance and resistance the Bears showed all day. All winning streaks end, but often they expire with more grace and certainly more grit than the Bears showed.
Playing without safety Mike Brown, whose calf injury could sideline him the rest of the regular season, the Bears lost some of their defensive swagger. They lost their ability to tackle, yielding a season-high 190 rushing yards and the most points since Cincinnati scored 24 on Sept. 25.
And, perhaps most importantly, they lost a full game off their NFC North lead over the hard-charging Vikings, who have won six straight.
"We're worried about ourselves," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We're worried about getting better next week."
A week that started with all the focus on the quarterback position ended with the spotlight on a decision by coach Lovie Smith that surprised even Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher and on statistics completely out of character for the league's top-ranked defense.
The Bears gave up a season-high 363 yards and allowed Pittsburgh to convert seven of 14 third downs. Jerome Bettis is probably breaking another Bears tackle somewhere.
"We didn't make any plays," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We didn't do anything well. It was ugly for us. I know I didn't tackle well."
Bettis, the aging warrior, rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns as the Bears allowed more visits to the end zone than they had in their previous four games combined.
Even a driving snowstorm in the second half and the constant "Terrible Towel" waving by the crowd of 61,237 at Heinz Field couldn't obscure the obvious.
"We didn't play smart, we didn't tackle well and we didn't make plays to get off the field," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "I'll put this on our shoulders because we lost in every facet of the game. We didn't get turnovers, we didn't score and we didn't get many three-and-outs."
Is now the time to mention Pittsburgh controlled the ball a season-high 37 minutes 19 seconds? That'd be piling on, which the Bears seldom did.
Pittsburgh marched 66 yards on five plays in its opening possession, breaking a 45-yard screen pass to Willie Parker and scoring on a 14-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward. The Pittsburgh receiver shrugged off Lance Briggs and Mike Green to reach the end zone.
The Bears closed to 7-3 on the next possession. Orton had three completions of 11 yards or more on the 14-play, 63-yard drive, including the Bears' first third-down conversion in 14 tries dating to two games ago.
"We wanted to throw some high-percentage balls early to get Kyle some confidence," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said.
But the offense wanted more than Robbie Gould's 29-yard field goal after facing a first-and-goal from the Pittsburgh 2.
After Thomas Jones got stuffed for a 1-yard loss on first down, linebacker Clark Haggans sacked Orton for a loss of 8 yards on a rollout intended for Muhsin Muhammad that Pittsburgh played perfectly. A third-down pass to Desmond Clark wasn't close.
Bettis' first touchdown made it 14-3 with 7:25 left before halftime.
On the drive, the Bears stopped Verron Hayes short of a first down on third down but surprisingly accepted an offensive pass-interference call on Ward to make it third-and-13. Given new life, Roethlisberger found Haynes for 16 yards on a play featuring more broken tackles.
Afterward, Cowher said he would have punted on fourth-and-1.
"I'd do the same thing again," Smith said.
Pittsburgh converted third-and-14 and third-and-9 situations on its second drive of the second half, culminating with Bettis' 5-yard score.
Jones scored on a 1-yard run with 13:38 remaining to cap a three-play, 71-yard drive.
Orton, throwing for more than 200 yards for just the second time this season, got the bulk of those yards on the drive. Clark made a spectacular diving catch for 27 yards. And Bernard Berrian outdueled Ike Taylor for a 43-yard gain to the Steelers' 1.
Fittingly, Gould missed the extra point after Jones' score.
"It was a bad day for the Bears," Smith said. "Of course it's tough when you lose a player like Mike, but Mike didn't miss any tackles. We had opportunities. We didn't play as well as we need to. We're better than we played."
Indeed, a defense that prides itself on turnovers left four Steelers fumbles on the ground.
This is the first time the Bears have lost since Brown, the defense's emotional leader, ripped his team's mind-set after the devastating loss in Cleveland. Losing him for extended action would be a blow.
With not much else to point to, the Bears were left to find solace in odd details, like the fact that the 1985 Super Bowl team also lost that season's 13th game. Of course, that was that team's only loss.
"Maybe that's a good sign then," Rivera said.
That'd be one of the few from Sunday.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times