What went wrong in the Bears' 20-12 loss to the Giants? A lot.
Before we dive into the Bears' 20-12 loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands on Sunday, let's take a vote: What would you say was the biggest reason behind the setback?
• The Giants' bootleg action helped lead to 262 rushing yards.
• The Bears had to settle for 4 field goals on 4 trips to the red zone.
• Bears wide receivers can't get open consistently.
• Quarterback Justin Fields.
Tough call, right?
It's obviously a combination of all five, but the most damning part of the game actually came after the Bears forced the Giants to punt on their first possession of the third quarter.
The Giants were only up 14-12 and the Bears -- who opened the second half with an impressive 9-play, 58-yard drive that culminated with a field goal -- were starting on their own 39-yard line.
Here's where you absolutely must keep the momentum moving forward. Two or three first downs and you can take the lead.
Instead, tight end Cole Kmet was whistled for holding on the very first play. First-and-20 is an awfully tough ask out of this offense and sure enough, the possession all but died right there.
The Giants kicked a field goal on their next drive to make it 17-12 late in the third quarter.
OK, Bears are still in this thing. Still plenty of time left.
After a 6-yard run from rookie running back Trestan Ebner, Fields scrambled and tried dumping a short pass Trevon Wesco. Catch it and it might be a first down. Instead, the ball clanked off the little-used tight end's hands and fell to the turf.
On third-and-4, Fields threw one of his best balls of the game to Dante Pettis, but the veteran wideout failed to haul it in.
Yet, incredibly -- despite all the miscues, all the mistakes and all the mediocre play -- the Bears still had a chance after stuffing the Giants deep in their own end late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for Matt Eberflus' squad, rookie wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. muffed a punt and the Giants recovered.
The Bears are now 2-2 and return home knowing they let a golden opportunity slip away.
"Obviously we're all disappointed in the loss," Eberflus told WBBM 780-AM afterward. "It was a hard-fought battle. ... Obviously we needed to be a little bit cleaner in the first half (defensively) for sure.
"We had to handle some more of the (bootlegs), and the quarterback runs kind of got us there."
Indeed, as much as we might want to pin this loss on the offense, the putrid play of the defense in the first half really hurt. The Bears were completely confused by quarterback Daniel Jones' play fakes on two touchdown drives that covered 150 yards in just 13 plays.
Jones ran in both touchdowns and had 49 yards on 5 carries at halftime. Meanwhile, running back Saquon Barkley cruised to 90 yards on 12 carries in the first half and finished with 146 on 31 attempts.
The Bears' offense actually looked competent early on, with Fields hitting Darnell Mooney for 18 yards on the first drive and 56 more on a bomb on the second drive.
Mooney, who had just 4 catches for 27 yards in the first three games, finished with 4 grabs for 94 yards.
"I just threw it up, gave him a chance and he made a great catch," Fields told WBBM. "I had great protection. I felt like there were some plays where I had all day in the pocket, so kudos to the O-line for that."
After that second drive, Fields completed only 9 more passes for 89 yards. Equanimeous St. Brown and Pettis both finished with zero catches, while Kmet managed just 3 for 16 yards. Their inability to consistently get open is a big reason the offense is stalling so often.
Michael Badgley, signed to the active roster for Cairo Santos, hit all four of his field-goal attempts. Santos was out due to a personal issue. The Bears also played without injured running back Darnell Mooney.
"I felt like we made progress driving the ball," Fields said. "One thing we've got to get better at is just finishing. We had, what, four red-zone trips?
"If we score on half of those ... it's a different ballgame."