CHICAGO -- Trash talk, taunting and teasing are as much a part of football as touchdown dances and helmet-rocking hits.
The Cincinnati Bengals know that. After all, they are professionals who have mostly been playing the game since they were kids.
But Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, they forgot a time or two that when an opponent steps up to yammer in your face, or tries to sneak in a shove when the referees' backs are turned, you need to walk away. A few deep breaths and a little back-peddling might have saved the Bengals a lot of headaches, and may have helped them walk away with a Week 1 win.
That's not what happened.
"Unfortunately, we had a lot of guys lose composure today," coach Marvin Lewis said. "We can't do that."
In all, Cincinnati was penalized eight times for 84 yards. Of those infractions, four were for end-of-play or post-play extracurricular activity that caught the officials' attention.
Perhaps no post-play penalty was as big as linebacker Rey Maualuga's unsportsmanlike conduct foul that came with 1:06 remaining in the one-score game.
Just as Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap had completed a third-down stop that likely would have drawn Chicago's punt team, Maualuga got tangled up with a Bears offensive player near the home sideline. After taking a push from that player, Maualuga tried to retaliate. Once he did with a shove of his own that took the Bear to the ground, officials turned around. Maualuga was flagged. Cincinnati was penalized 15 yards. Chicago retained possession and was given a first down.
"The second guy always gets called," fellow Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. "That's what I always say."
Lewis considered that penalty one of the more frustrating parts of the 24-21 loss that saw the Bears charge back from a 21-10 second-half deficit.
"We're going to get the ball back with a little under 40 seconds left," Lewis said. "We had an opportunity and we needed a field goal ... to tie. You don't want to do that. You earn the opportunity to get the ball back there."
The second post-play infraction came at the very end of the second quarter, when defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick was flagged for a personal foul after giving his own retaliatory shove on the Bengals' sideline. The push came at the end of a Bengals punt that had given Chicago possession at its own 41. With the 15 yards tacked on, the Bears ended up getting the ball at Cincinnati's 44 with 42 seconds left in the half.
Four plays later, Robbie Gould hit a team-record 58-yard field goal to pull the Bears within four points. At halftime, the Bengals led 14-10.
"For whatever reason, we didn't get any offsets [penalties]," Lewis said. "Their guy hit our guy out of bounds late on our sideline, but we can't retaliate. We know that. It's not what our team does. And unfortunately, today, we let them get under our skin.
"We can't beat ourselves like we did this afternoon."
Burfict agreed with Lewis. It's not an issue of lacking discipline, he said. The players know the difference between right and wrong, they just got a little caught up in the trash talk.
"They were talking a whole lot," Burfict said. "We're at their home and some guys just didn't ignore it. ... That's something we need to learn from and be happy it happened now instead of in the playoffs or later on in the season when it really counts."
The other end-of-play penalty came early in the first quarter, when Shawn Williams was flagged for a facemask at the end of a punt return by Chicago's explosive specialist Devin Hester. A touchdown threat virtually anytime he touches the ball, Hester was held to a 3-yard return on that play. As Hester was going to the ground, Williams grabbed his facemask. Instantly, the Bears were awarded 15 yards. As it turns out, though, that penalty wouldn't have an effect on the box score. Chicago ended up punting at the end of that possession.