The Chicago Bears first team defense sacked San Diego QB Phillip Rivers three times and forced two turnovers, while Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte added touchdowns as the Bears went to 2-0 in the preseason with a 33-28 victory over the Chargers Thursday evening at Soldier Field.
While the first team offense, especially QB Jay Cutler, was shaky at times, the Bears did enough on both sides of the ball to take advantage of San Diego’s ineptness. The Chargers turned the ball over four times, and while the Bears continued a trend of having to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns, Chicago was able to punch it in with a short field a couple times. Cutler finished 4-of-5 for 38 yards and a touchdown, but made a ill-advised throw to Marshall that resulted in a interception inside Chargers territory. Regarding the pick, Cutler explained it this way. “There are certain plays we’re running for the first time against a live defense that isn’t the Bears. Some things you just have to experience. Sometimes you’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes it’s going to go off without a hitch. I was in the last offense for three years. In year three, I think all of us had a great grasp of it. We don’t have that luxury right now. We’ve got to get it done in three preseason games. I think Marc’s [Trestman] aware of that and he game plans accordingly to make sure that he’s not overwhelming us and putting too much on one player than the rest of the offense. It’s give and take on both of our sides. Offensively, we just have to put ourselves in the meeting rooms, the film room and make sure we understand exactly what he wants out of us. I think he’s done a great job being very specific with each player on this is what we want, this is what we don’t want. We’re just trying to move forward every day.”
The Bears jumped out to a 14-0 early lead after Forte raced around the near side for 58-yards, setting up a Cutler to Marshall five-yard pitch and catch for a touchdown, then Forte darted in from three-yards out following a Shea McClellin sack and forced fumble of San Diego QB Phillip Rivers.Forte ran 74-yards on eight carries, a 9.3ypg average, and displayed quickness and explosiveness that seemed to be missing last season.
More Chargers miscues, a Rivers interception and fumbled snap, led to two short (23 and 25-yards) Robbie Gould field goals to increase the advantage to 20-0. Rivers finished 5-of-9 for 50 yards in a quarter of action.
From there, there were both some highlights and areas of improvement. Reserve LB J.T. Thomas blocked a punt that set up another score and rookie free agent RB Michael Ford, bidding to make the squad as the third running back over Armando Allen, took a second half kickoff 100 yards (starting four yards deep in the endzone) down to the Chargers three-yard line before getting caught. Michael Bush pushed it across the goaline from there to give the Bears a 27-14 lead.
On the negative side, Chargers RB Ryan Mathews ran for 45-yards on nine attempts against the Bears first team defense. Additionally, the Bears second and third-team defense struggled against Chargers backup QB’s Charlie Whitehurst and rookie Brad Sorensen. Whitehurst, after fumbling away his initial snap on the first series, carved up the backup Bears secondary by throwing two touchdown passes to bring San Diego within two at 30-28. The Chargers desperation drive in the final seconds ended when S Brandon Hardin knocked away a hail mary pass in the endzone as the clock ran out.
Bears first-year head coach Marc Trestman saw signs of improvement in his ballclub.”We really wanted to focus on the first quarter tonight, with the majority of the guys are going to be with us, quite frankly, and maybe a little bit into the second quarter. I thought we started out well. Special teams really set the tone. They were very physical, tackled, created turnovers. Defensively, the same thing, we got to the quarterback early. Had a good pass rush, tackled well on the perimeter and it set the tone with field position both with special teams and defense. Offensively, certainly we are not pleased with the start in the first quarter, three and out. Two sacks individually. We didn’t look clean. We got the ball back quickly and were able to move the football running and with a couple throws and scoring. Then we had a short field on the second touchdown and were able to knock it in there. We certainly have a long way to go and have things to work on, but I thought the effort in the first quarter and physicality of our football team on all three sides, on offensive line of scrimmage as well as the defensive line of scrimmage was good.
Chicago heads to Oakland next Friday for the third preseason contest, and presumably, the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Paw Prints: Trestman thought rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills both showed well in their first starts, but wanted to temper his enthusiasm. “I’m going to look forward to watching the tape. I did see some good things that I really want to hold on the evaluation.For the few throws that we had, I felt the two of them played very well from my perspective.”….Third-string QB Matt Blanchard left with a hand injury, something that may necessitate another QB being added to the roster. Backup Josh McCown was forced to re-enter the game…In addition to McClellin’s sack, DE Corey Wootton and DT Nate Collins added sacks….Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 45 yards.