CHICAGO — More than a game that got away, this one felt like a game the Cincinnati Bengals gave away.
The Chicago Bears happily took the victory, 24-21, in Sunday's season-opening game of teams coming off 10-6 seasons.
The giving Bengals turned the ball over three times and were penalized eight times for 84 yards.
"We played really hard, and that's good to see," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We just didn't play smart at all times, and that's what hurt us and that's what lost us the game."
Leading 14-10 at halftime, the Bengals took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards to a third touchdown, on a 5-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The Bears countered with a 1-yard TD run by Matt Forte to make it 21-17 through three quarters.
Cincinnati's third turnover of the day, Tim Jennings' recovery of a Mohamed Sanu fumble, led to the winning score in Marc Trestman's debut as the Bears' coach.
Brandon Marshall got it on a 19-yard pass from Jay Cutler with 7:58 left.
"He made plays when it mattered and when it counted," Bengals tackle Geno Atkins said of Cutler. "On third downs, we've got to get them off the field."
The Bengals went three-and-out, then never got the ball back.
"We won in a critical situation," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. "When it was most important, our defense got off the field."
Cincinnati's last gasp came with 1:06 left, when it stopped the Bears on a third-and-six play — only to have Rey Maualuga flagged for a personal foul for throwing down tackle Jordan Mills.
"Their guy was blocking him after the whistle. I would think it would be offsetting fouls," Lewis said. "But for whatever reason, today we didn't get any offsets."
Said Mills: "We needed a first down to win the game, and I came up to the line and had to block (Maualuga). I wasn't letting him go, so he kind of got mad because I was blocking him. He's a great player. He made a mistake.
"Even though I wanted to retaliate, I had to keep my composure because of the team, and me hitting him back is a selfish play and I could have lost the game for my teammates."
The Bengals also were burned by three special-teams penalties in the first-half alone, including another personal foul.
Early on, an illegal block in the back wiped out a 49-yard punt return by Adam Jones, putting the Bengals on their 26 instead of Chicago's 27.
A facemask penalty and the personal foul cost Cincinnati 15 yards on a pair of punts. The latter, called on Dre Kirkpatrick for a retaliatory shove, helped set up a field goal with 11 seconds left in the half.
"We can't retaliate. We knew that — that's not what our team does," Lewis said. "Unfortunately, today we let them get under our skin, and we did it twice today. And we can't do that."
Cincinnati's halftime lead came via touchdown passes of 2 and 45 yards from Dalton to A.J. Green, on drives of 97 and 91 yards.
Dalton finished 26-for-33 for 282 yards, with Green catching nine passes for 162 yards.
The Bears scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Martellus Bennett, set up by the first of Charles Tillman's two first-half interceptions.
Robbie Gould added a Bears-record 58-yard field goal.
Vontaze Burfict led the Bengals with eight tackles and had an interception.
Jennings led the Bears with eight tackles.
As for giving a game away, Lewis was clearly perturbed.
"Let me give (the Bears) credit. They did a good job and they beat us," he said. "But we've got to play better in order to win. And we could have played better and won the football game, in my opinion. We didn't."
Steelers at Bengals
When: 8:40 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16