In military jargon, breakdowns in communication are known as SNAFUs, as in situation normal, all fouled up.
The Bears' secondary backpedaled into a costly snafu Sunday. It wasn't a matter of life and death, but it contributed mightily to a 26-20 loss to the New York Giants in front of a crowd of 66,900, a Soldier Field record for a Bears game.
The loss ended the Bears' nine-game opening-day winning streak and tainted Dave Wannstedt's regular-season debut as head coach.
Bears cornerback Anthony Blaylock was called for an interference penalty against receiver Mark Jackson at the goal line with 1 minute 11 seconds remaining and the Bears leading 20-19.
Part of the Bears' secondary, according to Blaylock, was playing zone coverage and others were playing man-to-man.
"That's ridiculous, you just can't have that," Blaylock said. "If anybody wants to take the blame for it, I'll take the blame for it. We miscommunicated.
"This scheme that we played was fairly simple. So there is no excuse for anybody, really, to run a scheme like this and have miscommunication like we did. We tried to mix it up and run some different things. As a whole, the defensive secondary . . . we just blew it."
The penalty put the ball at the 1, and quarterback Phil Simms (24 of 34 for 277 yards and two TDs) passed to fullback Jarrod Bunch for the game-winner. The 80-yard drive included a key 24-yard pass to Chris Calloway on a third and 18 from the Giants' 12.
"We were so deep (in the coverage on the play) and so conservative," Wannstedt said. "We were playing back there 25 and 30 yards deep and they got underneath us. Everybody, at that point of the game, was thinking: `Don't get beat deep.' You do that and you lose your aggressive mentality and you don't make plays."
Blaylock again blamed confusion for the blown coverage.
"We were getting calls from the sideline, and when we got the call in, they were coming out of the huddle," Blaylock said. "One of the big plays they got, I was playing one thing and the safeties were playing another and the guy (Calloway) was wide open. That is miscommunication between me and Mark (Carrier), Donnell (Woolford) and the rest of the nickel guys who were in there. Man, I have never seen nothing like that."
Blaylock missed the entire preseason with a pulled hamstring. Last year, he played for San Diego. The Bears signed him as an unrestricted free agent and cut cornerbacks Lemuel Stinson and Richard Fain in the past two weeks.
"I didn't play in the preseason, but it's basic coverage," Blaylock said. "It's just a matter of communicating the calls and talking to each other, which we didn't do. We were in disarray the last few minutes. We were running around, trying to change calls. When you do stuff like that and when you are trying to play a zone, it's going to leave some guys out there to dry."
The Giants dominated the first half offensively, but emerged with only a 9-7 lead. David Treadwell booted field goals from 19, 35 and 23 yards.
The Bears finally scored with :03 left in the half. Jim Harbaugh (16 of 28 for 178 yards, one TD, one interception) passed 2 yards to wide receiver Terry Obee on second and goal with no timeouts remaining. Kevin Butler's extra point pulled the Bears to within 9-7.
With :06 and no timeouts remaining in the half, Wannstedt ordered his team to go for it instead of kicking the almost automatic field goal that would have pulled the Bears to within 9-3.
"It really wasn't a chance because we had :06 on the clock and we felt we could get a quick ball," Wannstedt said. "We told Jim to throw it on three steps (dropback). Whether we scored or if it was incomplete, we felt there would be :03 or :04 left to kick the field goal in that event. It turned out we had :03 left."
The Bears turned a special-teams play to take a 14-9 lead early in the third period. Rookie linebacker Myron Baker blocked a Sean Landeta punt, picked it up and returned it 5 yards for a touchdown with 13:55 left in the third quarter.
"We worked extremely hard this week on the punt block," Wannstedt said. "(Baker) did a nice job of just not blocking the ball, but picking it up and scoring."
Butler added a 20-yard field goal at the conclusion of a seven-play, 35-yard drive that included a 22-yard pass from Harbaugh to Tom Waddle. Three straight runs by Craig Heyward moved the ball to the Giants' 2. But a Harbaugh run for no gain and an incompletion forced the field goal.
The Giants pulled to within 17-16 on a flea-flicker play late in the third quarter. Rodney Hampton took the handoff then pitched back to Simms, who lofted a pass to a wide-open Jackson.
The Giants went ahead 19-17 when Treadwell booted his fourth field goal, this time from 36 yards with 9:44 left in the game.
Butler kicked a 34-yard field goal with 3:07 left to put the Bears up 20-19.
"We did not get it done, obviously," Wannstedt said. "And the only way I know to correct that is, we get in here Monday, we watch the film, and we go to work. You've got to learn to win games in those situations. They don't happen by just talking about it."