Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field:

What it means: Chicago hasn’t lost two in a row since December of 2012, and now has to go into a short week with the sting of that on its mind. The Bears still aren’t where they want to be, but there’s no reason to panic, because the team continues to show signs of growth.

Stock watch: Matt Forte's fumble on the first play from scrimmage short-circuited the team’s opening drive, and the play was typical of the type of day the team experienced early. Quarterback Jay Cutler suffered three sacks, and a fumble, leading to a Saints field goal. Despite a decent outing from Cutler, the protection early let him down, as did receivers. Earl Bennett's dropped ball on fourth down with 8:40 left, which would have converted a fourth-and-2 at the New Orleans 25, hurt Chicago’s chances for a rally.

Injuries mounting: Starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea made the team’s list of inactives for Sunday’s game after being listed earlier in the week as questionable with a turf toe injury. Paea’s inactivity paved the way for Nate Collins and Landon Cohen to start against the Saints. But Collins, who posted his first career solo sack in the first half, left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury, and was later declared out for the game.

The team already lost three-technique defensive tackle Henry Melton with a torn ACL, and cornerback Charles Tillman has practiced only one day per week for the majority of the season because of a sore groin and knee.

If Collins is forced out for an extended period, the Bears will likely wind up starting Cohen and Corey Wootton at tackle. The club will also be forced to look for more depth at the position on the waiver wire. It’s worth noting Chicago signed Cohen two days prior to the Sept. 29 loss to at Detroit.

Postseason chances slightly diminished? Since the playoffs moved to the 12-team format in 1990, 77 percent of teams that started the season 4-1 reached the playoffs (98 of 128 teams). Clubs with 3-2 records after the first five games have gone to the postseason 51 percent of the time (95 of 186).

What’s next: The Bears face a difficult four-day turnaround when they play host to the New York Giants on Thursday night.