CHAMPAIGN—The Bears' downfall Sunday didn't start with Tom Brady's game-winning touchdown pass. It began with a failure to pick up a first down after the Patriots had cut their deficit to 30-25 with 2 minutes 46 seconds to play.
The Bears' drive that followed was a three-and-out on three runs by Anthony Thomasa 9-yard gain over right guard Chris Villarrial; a second-and-1 over James "Big Cat" Williams at right tackle and a third-and-1 over Williams, this time lined up on the left side.
The game could have been over for the Patriots a number of times in those last frenetic 21/2 minutes.
But as Bears coach Dick Jauron said, "This is a game we could have won, but I don't know what that means. We just didn't make the plays going down the wire and they did."
The third-down call was the same play on which Thomas scored untouched from two yards out in the third quarter.
"It's easy to second guess anything that doesn't work, and I certainly understand that," Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop said. "But I have no problem running over [Williams] and handing the ball to [Thomas] whenever [the game is] on the line. We just didn't execute."
The Patriots went ahead on Brady's touchdown pass to David Patten, giving the Bears' offense one more chance with 21 seconds left.
On first down, Miller threw an incomplete pass to Marty Booker. On the next play, 10 additional seconds ticked downfrom :12 to :02before the Bears called time out after a sack of Miller from their own 20.
"Our guys should have called a timeout, it's everyone's responsibility," Jauron said. Miller "apparently couldn't get up."
It was a fittingly dismal and confusing conclusion.
"I've never seen anything like it," Miller said.