A week after their biggest rushing effort in two decades, the Bears got back to who they are:
A dysfunctional mess on offense.
Jay Cutler isn't throwing interceptions at an alarming rate, but otherwise a case can be constructed the Bears offense was better under Ron Turner than it is now. A 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Soldier Field isn't reason for the 4-2 Bears to panic, but they quickly need to examine what is going on.
Three critical miscues in the second half did them in against a patchwork Seahawks team that still is getting to know one another under new coach Pete Carroll. Danieal Manning's 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was nullified by Rod Wilson's holding penalty. Robbie Gould missed a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. In range for a 48-yard try in the third quarter, Cutler was sacked for an 11-yard loss by Lawyer Milloy on third down, forcing a punt.
Worse, the team that rushed for 218 yards at Carolina called 47 pass plays and handed off only 12 times. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is off limits to the media on game days, so coach Lovie Smith and the players were left to explain. They said they were playing catch-up, but the Seahawks (3-2) didn't take a two-score lead until 13:45 remained, and the best way to break in a young offensive line is by running the ball.
"Never really got the running game established," Smith said. "Didn't get a whole lot done."
Said running back Chester Taylor: "I am a little surprised, but I know we got down. When you run the ball, it's pounding, pounding and then it's just going to break, so you gotta stick with it."
It certainly wasn't what general manager Jerry Angelo was seeking. He said on the WBBM-AM 780 pregame show: "Hopefully we can take what (Cutler) does in our passing game and what we saw last week in the running game and create a little balance."
Martz's refusal to run the ball wasn't the only factor in this surprising loss.
• The worst team in the NFL on third down, the Bears went 0-for-12. The offense has failed to convert its last 22 third downs with Cutler, dating to the Packers game in Week 3. It's the primary reason the Bears are 26th in time of possession, no way to treat a defense that surrendered 353 yards to the Seahawks.
• The worst pass protection in the league got worse. With a steady diet of safety and cornerback blitzes, the Seahawks notched six sacks, 3½ by defensive backs. Cutler has been sacked 23 times and the Bears have surrendered 27, putting them on pace for a franchise-record 72.
The revamped line with Chris Williams at left guard struggled, but Cutler needs to avoid some pressure by defensive backs, such as the sack by Jordan Babineaux for a safety in the third quarter. Too often, Martz is relying on only five linemen to block.
"It's on me. It's on the offensive line. It's on the receivers," Cutler said. "We've got to go in (Monday), look at the film, make some corrections somewhere along the line and figure it out. I've got to get the ball out quicker. We've got to identify who's coming and who's not, and receivers have got to see it."
• The offense ranks 30th in the red zone, and those problems continued. Matt Forte scored on a 6-yard run to cap an opening drive greatly aided by a 58-yard pass interference penalty Devin Hester drew against Roy Lewis.
But first-and-10 at the 11 turned into a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter, and just before halftime first-and-10 at the 12 turned into a 24-yard field goal. Tight end Greg Olsen, who led the team with eight touchdown catches last season, is catchless in the last two games, a first in his career.
Cutler, who finished 17 of 39 for 290 yards, said he felt no ill effects from his concussion two weeks ago.
The loss spoiled an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester that tied him with Brian Mitchell for the most kick-return scores in NFL history and gave the Bears a last gasp with an onside kick.
The Bears could have won with their defensive effort, but they made a star of former first-round bust Mike Williams, who caught 10 passes for 123 yards as the secondary was exposed for the first time.
"Everything concerns me on a day like today," Smith said.