Drop, ejection and penalties sink Bears in playoff loss

NFL

NEW ORLEANS (AP)Early in their playoff game against the Saints, Bears wide receiver Javon Wims raced into the end zone behind defenders on a trick play.

It turned out the joke was on Chicago.

Wims let an accurate throw drop right through his arms and bounce of his jersey number. The blunder was the first of several that took away any chance the bumbling Bears had to beat the Saints in a 21-9 loss on Sunday.

Seventh-seeded Chicago (8-9), which needed to play a clean game after backing into the NFC playoffs with a .500 regular season, never had another opportunity as good as the first one in a contest that remained tight for a while.

”When you have an opportunity to make some big plays, you have to be able to make those against a really good team,” Chicago coach Matt Nagy said. ”We have to be better.”

Trailing just 7-3 at halftime, the Bears saw their chances disappear during Saints touchdown drives that consumed more than 16 minutes combined in New Orleans’ first two second-half possessions.

Wims’ drop came after running back David Montgomery took a shotgun snap from the wildcat formation on first down at the New Orleans 40 and flipped it to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who launched a perfect deep ball.

Nagy said the Bears had kept the trick play in their pocket for several weeks, setting it up by running almost all of the time out of that formation.

”It was a touchdown,” Trubisky said. ”You don’t get many opportunities like that to get your guy wide open behind the safety. I was excited it got called, and it definitely would have helped getting on the board early.”

Chicago got nothing out of that drive, failing to cut into a 7-0 deficit after the Saints had taken the lead on Michael Thomas’ 13-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Trubisky was knocked out of bounds 2 yards short of the marker as he tried to avoid a hit on a fourth-and-4 scramble from the New Orleans 34.

The rest of the day was just as rough.

The Bears failed to convert their first nine third downs – the Saints went 11 of 17 – and were outgained 385-140 before a meaningless 99-yard drive that ended with Jimmy Graham catching a touchdown pass with no time left.

Graham appeared in no mood to celebrate and eager to start the offseason, getting up and trotting straight into the tunnel to the visitor’s locker room in the Superdome.

Trubisky, who led the Bears to three wins in their last four games after reclaiming the starting job from Nick Foles in late November, went 10 of 19 for 107 yards before the final possession.

Montgomery, a 1,000-yard rusher in the regular season, managed only 31 yards on 12 carries.

”We were in third-and-longs that weren’t very manageable,” Trubisky said. ”We shot ourselves in the foot a lot. It was just sloppy.”

Chicago’s first points came after Tashaun Gipson forced a fumble from the Saints’ Taysom Hill as he tried to throw and defensive tackle John Jenkins caught it at the New Orleans 24. Even then, the Bears made a costly mistake, settling for a field goal after Cole Kmet was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, turning a third-and-5 into a third-and-20 at the 24.

”The explanation that was told to me was he was throwing the ball to the (Saints) player like it was taunting,” Nagy said. ”Cole and our coaches on staff said he was throwing the ball to the ref. That was a big play.”

Later, safety Eddie Jackson jumped offside when the Saints faced a fourth-and-3 from the Bears 13 in the third quarter and feigned as if Hill was going to take a shotgun snap. Saints coach Sean Payton later said there were no plans to snap the ball.

”Those are things you just can’t do,” Gipson said. ”We did uncharacteristic things.”

Two plays later, Latavius Murray scored on a 6-yard reception.

Receiver Anthony Miller was ejected in the third quarter for punching Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson after a dispute. It was the second time this season Gardner-Johnson baited a Bears player into losing control. Wims was ejected from the Bears’ overtime loss to the Saints in November and suspended for two games for sucker-punching the garrulous safety.

Chicago already was playing without rookie Darnell Mooney (ankle), its second-leading receiver.

”We spent time on Wednesday morning as a team literally showing and explaining their particular players’ actions in games and teaching it,” Nagy said. ”Especially when we’re low with numbers at wide receiver, we’ve all got to understand we have to be stronger and can’t let that happen.”

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