DENVER -- What seemed a promising performance Sunday became a catastrophe for Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber when the veteran committed two late errors that directly contributed to the 13-10 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos.
Even Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow said, "I might have thanked the Lord when [Barber]" made the first blunder that allowed the Broncos to tie the game at 10 in regulation.
Led by Tebow, the Broncos scored 10 unanswered in the last 2:08 to tie it with three seconds remaining in regulation, before winning on a 51-yard field goal by Matt Prater in overtime. Mistakes by Barber paved the way for both to transpire.
"We gave it away," said Bears return man Devin Hester. "We were up 10 points."
Barber made the first miscue just after the two-minute warning with his team leading 10-3 when he didn't stay inbounds to milk the clock, and he fumbled in overtime to set up Denver's game-winning drive.
"It's tough because you feel like you lost the game," said receiver Roy Williams, who bobbled a potential game-tying pass last week against Kansas City that was intercepted. "I had to go through that last week. In reality, you didn't lose the game. You could've been the hero. You could've won the game, yes. But you didn't lose the game. He played well, ran hard. He made one big mistake."
Taking a handoff from Caleb Hanie near the end of regulation, Barber ran around left end only to let Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams push him out of bounds, which stopped the clock after a 5-yard gain on second down.
The problem with that is the Broncos had already burned their final timeout with 5:30 left after a Kahlil Bell run up the middle. Had Barber remained inbounds, the Bears would have been able to run more time off the clock to preserve the victory in regulation.
"He obviously, probably shouldn't do that, and that kept us in it," Tebow said. "I mean, we probably would have had 10 seconds if he stayed inbounds, but, it was just special."
The Bears didn't share that sentiment, and coach Lovie Smith said that given the time left on the clock, Barber should have known what to do. After all, Barber is a seven-year veteran and had the opportunity to put the game away instead of opening the door for yet another Tebow comeback.
"We have to know the situation," Smith said. "In that situation we have to keep the ball in bounds. He'll tell you that."
Actually, Barber wasn't able to because he left the locker room immediately after the game, never making himself available for comment. A couple members of the team's public relations searched for Barber, who was never seen in the locker room by any of them.
Barber's fumble in overtime came five plays into the drive on third-and-7 from the Denver 38 and was the final blow in what should have gone down as a productive day for the veteran. Running with power and unusual shiftiness, Barber gained 108 yards on 27 attempts and scored the team's only touchdown.
Perhaps that's why teammates remained supportive of Barber despite the running back's mistakes potentially costing the team a berth in the postseason.
"Marion Barber is a heck of a football player. Marion Barber is gonna help us to get into the playoffs," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "Things happen, they happen to all of us. I'm proud of the guy. If he just keeps his head up, he's gonna help the Bears win."