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Bears' Smith on Cutler's fumble: 'I should've thrown the red flag'

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith told reporters Monday that he regrets not challenging a second-half play that was ruled a fumble by his team in Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Washington Redskins.

With the Bears leading 14-10 in the third quarter, Smith failed to call for a replay when Cutler fumbled the ball while trying to dive over from the 1-yard line on a quarterback sneak. Sideline views after the game indicated that Cutler put the ball over the goal line when he reached out before fumbling it, but Smith said assistants in the coaching box had no real conclusive camera angle immediately after the play.

Smith also said he believed his defense would force Washington to punt from near its goal line.

Still, Smith admitted a mistake.

"I should have thrown the red flag on the 1-yard fumble down by the end zone," Smith said. "Yes, I should have, looking at it, of course, in hindsight. ... I understand the reasons why, but that was a critical play in the game. I need to be able to make that call."

Smith had exhausted a timeout one play prior with a failed challenge on wide receiver Earl Bennett's reception that was ruled on the field to be down at the 1-yard line and not in the end zone. The Bears have lost 12 of their last 15 replay challenges.

The fumble was one of five turnovers for the Bears. It was a brutal outing for Cutler, who passed for 281 yards but was pressured all game and threw four interceptions to the same player -- Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Hall tied an NFL single-game record with the four picks, and he ran one back 92 yards for a touchdown.

For the third consecutive year, the Bears have bogged down following a good start, and now they're looking for answers and a chance to get healthy.

"I think the bye week is coming at a great time for us, period," Smith said. "We've lost three out of four games, but at the same time, we've been able to see the type of football team we can be, which is a very good football team."

Chicago started 2008 at 5-3 before fading to 9-7 and missing the playoffs and last year started 3-1 before losing six of its next seven. The Bears began this season 4-1, but they have lost two consecutive home games to NFC teams largely because of a turnover- and sack-prone offense.

"This isn't a very hard sport to figure out," center Olin Kreutz said. "It's just hard to do, and we're having a hard time doing it right now."

The offensive line drew most of the fire earlier in the season, but after the loss to Washington, quarterback Jay Cutler and Smith had plenty of issues that needed to be addressed.

Cutler took the blame for the four interceptions he threw Sunday.

"Jay, of course, would like to have some of those throws back," Smith said Monday. "There are so many things that all of us would like to do differently."

Until the Washington game, the real problem for Cutler had been getting sacked. He had thrown just three interceptions before Sunday's loss.

The Bears allowed four sacks Sunday, an improvement over six against the Seattle Seahawks and nine against the New York Giants. Yet Chicago leads the NFL with 31 allowed, 20 more than its own defense has managed against opponents. The Bears also have converted just 17.9 percent of their third-down plays (15-for-84), last in the league.

Amid the struggles, Smith saw some positives in a five-series stint that included 270 yards gained and 16 first downs.

"We weren't able to get points on the board, and it's always about points," Smith said.

The team should be healthier when it plays the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 7. Linebacker Lance Briggs is expected to be over an ankle injury that caused him to miss one game and most of Sunday's loss. Also, safety Major Wright should be back from a pulled hamstring.

Guard Edwin Williams suffered a back injury and had to be replaced Sunday. For the next game, the line could take on another look because guard Roberto Garza likely will be back from arthroscopic knee surgery, which leaves the Bears pondering whether to move guard Chris Williams back to left tackle or put him at another position or even the bench.

"We're still in a good position," nose tackle Anthony Adams said. "We're 4-3, we still haven't played Minnesota, we have to play Green Bay one more time and Detroit one more time. So we can still make a run at this thing. It's not over for us at all."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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