As long faces dominated the locker room, Bears receiver Brandon Lloyd had reason to be optimistic, based on his breakout 124-yard performance.
Instead Lloyd was as annoyed as any of his teammates, knowing Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to Tampa Bay was the perfect example of letting one slip away.
"We lost the game," Lloyd said. "I don't have any consolation prizes."
Playing without the injured Devin Hester, the Bears (1-2) gift-wrapped this one for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay (2-1) was all but finished, trailing by 10 after Lloyd's 19-yard touchdown catch with 6 minutes 38 seconds to play. But thanks to Brian Griese's arm and Charles Tillman's brain cramp, the Bears found a way to lose.
Tillman picked up a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty in overtime for going after Bucs receiver Michael Clayton after the Bears had stopped the Bucs on third-and-9 from their own 8. Former Bear Griese capitalized, completing his team's 90-yard march to set up Matt Bryant's game-winning, 21-yard field goal.
Griese threw for a career-high 407 yards, completing 38 of 67 passes with two touchdowns. His 67 attempts tied for fifth most in NFL history and were the most by a Bears opponent. He won despite throwing three interceptions.
"This is a huge win for our team," Griese said. "I think we made it a little harder than it needed to be."
A stunned Soldier Field crowd, prepared to celebrate a victory in the home opener, made its way to the exits in silence. Bucs players leaped around the field like they were the Cubs celebrating the division title.
And inside the Bears' locker room, heads shook in disbelief, and eyes rolled.
"Very disappointing," safety Mike Brown said. "We pride ourselves on being a good defense, and defenses don't let teams score 10 points in six minutes. The reality is, we're 1-2, and that's not where we want to be."
Everything went wrong for the Bears after quarterback Kyle Orton (22 of 34, 268 yards) engineered a six-play, 54-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Lloyd's touchdown. It was Orton's second touchdown pass of the season, following his 6-yard toss to Matt Forte (seven catches, 66 yards) in the third quarter. Robbie Gould accounted for the other scoring with three first-half field goals, though he missed from 49 yards early in the fourth quarter.
Orton threw an ugly second-quarter interception directly to Gaines Adams, who returned it 45 yards for a score and a 14-6 Bucs edge. But after Orton's second touchdown pass, the Bears' 24-14 lead appeared safe.
The Bears' defense, which held Tampa Bay to 47 yards rushing and forced four turnovers, suddenly became vulnerable to the pass. Whether it was a lack of pressure up front (the Bears had no sacks), some missteps by the secondary or simply fatigue, the Bears made Griese look untouchable for a stretch.
First Griese connected on six consecutive passes as he moved the ball from his own 20 to the Bears' 32, setting up Bryant's 35-yard field goal six plays later. After Tampa Bay forced a three-and-out, Griese directed an 11-play, 79-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jerramy Stevens, tying the score with seven seconds left.
Not even the Bears could fully comprehend the mess that followed. After the defense stopped the Bucs from scoring on their first overtime drive, Orton and the offense had a chance but squandered it. On third-and-7 from the Bears' 47, Rashied Davis dropped a pass that could have set up his team close to field-goal range.
Then came the play that will be the topic of conversation all week. Tampa Bay faced third-and-9 from its own 8. Griese completed a 2-yard pass to Stevens, but a scrum trailed the play. Bucs tackle Jeremy Trueblood appeared to take a couple of shots at the Bears during a pileup. Tillman raced over and jumped into the pile, and then a separate confrontation between him and Clayton ensued. Tillman appeared to wrestle Clayton to the ground, drawing a 15-yard flag.
Clayton said he baited Tillman into the penalty. Tillman took full responsibility and vowed not to make the mistake again.
"With the Peanut call, I think it should have been offsetting (penalties)," safety Kevin Payne said. "Usually the refs catch the second person. He was probably just defending himself."
Said linebacker Brian Urlacher: "Judgment call. ... One play doesn't decide a game. I know that much."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun