- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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The truth is Garza knew his unit -- the offensive line -- played a major role in the implosion by committing nine drive-killing false-start penalties, thus ruining arguably the best performance of the season by quarterback Jay Cutler, who completed 73.7 percent of his passes for one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 99.6.
“We’re here to win games,” Garza said, cutting off the question before it was asked. “Stats mean nothing if we don’t win the football game. [There were] too many breakdowns. We knew it was gonna be loud. Obviously we didn’t adjust to it. It’s an issue that’s part of playing in the NFL. We have to adjust to it; do a lot better job than we did.”
In Chicago’s opening drive (which started at the 20 and ended at the 14) the offensive linemen -- likely on edge about facing Detroit’s talented front four -- committed three false start penalties. Tight end Kellen Davis false started on first down, left guard Chris Williams jumped three plays later and left tackle J'Marcus Webb followed suit.
Four of the Bears’ false-start penalties occurred in the first quarter, two more in the second.
In all, officials flagged Webb and Davis for two false starts apiece. Even running back Matt Forte, who rushed for 116 yards, was flagged for a false start, as was safety Chris Conte on a fourth-quarter punt.
Afterward, Lions coach Jim Schwartz thanked the city of Detroit for its role in the Chicago false-start party.
“Nine false starts, I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of that,” Schwartz said. “So our hats are off to the fans here, to the city of Detroit. We need to get used to playing in games like this and having atmospheres like this. Fans did their part tonight, and we took the cue from them. But nine false starts is an awful lot, and all the credit goes to our crowd.”
Obviously, the artificial crowd noise pumped by speakers onto the practice fields didn’t sufficiently prepare the Bears for what they’d face Monday night in a raucous setting at Ford Field. Waving pink towels commemorating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the crowd raised the decibel level significantly on seemingly every crucial play and it affected Chicago’s ability to communicate.
Cutler said the crowd noise made the Bears switch to a silent count because “the guys were having trouble hearing me,” acknowledging that the nine false starts put the team “in a lot of holes out there and against a team like that, [with] the way they’re playing, it’s going to be difficult [to overcome].”
Bears coach Lovie Smith, meanwhile, refused to blame the noise. Ultimately, the responsibility lies within the team to handle every situation, regardless of how adverse.
“We can’t use that as an excuse,” Smith said. “[We’ve] got to be able to sit in there. Pre-snap penalties kill you. It’s hard to overcome those. We’re [a] better football team than that.”
Crowd noise at Ford Field led to nine false-start penalties by the Bears.