The Bears pitched a shutout through three quarters but struggled to find the end zone, and paid the price in a 17-16 loss Sunday at Soldier Field.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles completed a pass to the right to Arrelious Benn, who fell to the ground, along with cornerback Tracy Porter. Benn, an Illinois alum, wasn’t touched, though, and stood up and ran 34 yards, untouched, to score with 2:49 to play. Jason Myers’ extra point gave the Jaguars their first lead of the game, 17-16.
The Bears needed a field goal to win the game, but stalled at midfield. They’ll enter Thursday night’s game in Green Bay 1-4.
A sparse crowd — there were 5,370 unused tickets — watched quarterback Brian Hoyer dink-and-dunk his way to field goals. Bortles threw a first-quarter interception and fumbled in the fourth, aiding a thin Bears defense that through three quarters posted a strong showing.
The Bears’ lone touchdown, a 1-yard Jordan Howard run midway two-thirds of the way through the second quarter, capped their longest drive of the season: a 7:31 slog in which they converted four third downs.
Otherwise, the Bears continued to struggle turning yardage into points.
Their defense, though, gave them some breathing room. For the first time since Oct. 22, 2012 — against the Lions — the Bears didn’t allow a single first-half point.
Porter intercepted Bortles in the end zone to extinguish the Jaguars’ first drive; the ball founded off Allen Robinson’s chest as he was falling on his back and landed in the arms of Porter, who ran to the Bears’ 24.
The Jaguars got only one first down the rest of the half, punting twice and keeling once before going to the locker room. Surprisingly, the Bears haven’t allowed a first-half touchdown in three home games.
The Jaguars’ offensive ineptitude followed them out of the halftime locker room, too. They went three-and-out on the first three drives of the third quarter, gaining only 14 yards on nine plays.
They finally woke up after Connor Barth’s second field goal of the day — a 24-yarder — and a victory for the Jacksonville defense. The Bears faced first-and-goal at the five, but moved backward one yard before settling for the field goal.
Chris Ivory’s one-yard run at the start of the fourth quarter brought the game within six. The Bears then punted, and the home team, for the first time all game, seemed on the ropes. Willie Young, though, forced a Bortles fumble by sacking him from behind and smacking the ball out of his right hand.
The Bears went only 14 yards in the next six plays, though, and settled for a 32-yard Barth field goal. The Jaguars countered with Myers’ 30-yarder with 5:03 left to go down, 16-10.