On a cool August night, the Chicago Bears took the field against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field for their second preseason game of the season. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this game to watch was how the Bears’ first-team offense continued to progress.
In their initial preseason game, they struggled to find any real rhythm and ultimately didn’t put any points on the board. That would change in game two, but there were still miscues that hurt their performance.
In 16 plays ran in the first quarter — a pace of 64 plays per game, which is good as Marc Trestman is trying to instill his up-tempo West Coast system — the starters put up 100 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, they were the beneficiaries of two turnovers forced by the defense, one of which resulted in a trip to the end zone.
The first series of the game was a disaster for the Bears. They went three-and-out as they lost two yards on a first-down run and then Jay Cutler was sacked the next two plays, including one fumble on the first take down that Chicago was fortunate enough to recover. The first two losses were clearly on the offensive line, but the third was a coverage sack. However, they would rebound their next drive.
After converting an initial third down on the possession, Cutler pitched the ball to Matt Forte who found a huge crease on the left side of the field and took off for 58 yards. The play was sprung open by newly acquired left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who pulled outside as the lead blocker and took out the only defender standing between Forte and open field.
That set the Bears up with a first-and-goal situation. Cutler dropped back to pass and patiently waited for Brandon Marshall to fight through the jam as he caught a back-shoulder throw a yard deep in the end zone.
Following a Chris Conte interception, Cutler would force a ball over the middle to a double-covered Marshall, and it was picked off by San Diego’s Victor Butler.
The Bears would get the ball right back on a sack-fumble forced by Shea McClellin; Major Wright recovered it. On the very next play, they went right back to the air. Cutler found Marshall on a roll out to the right for 19 yards.
An offsides penalty moved Chicago five yards further up the field to San Diego’s 11-yard line. From there, they ran the ball three-consecutive times to the right with Forte to eventually punch it in for six. The significance of running to that side of the line is that it’s being anchored by rookies Kyle Long (first round out of Oregon) and Jordan Mills (fifth round out of Ole Miss) with the starters for the first time. They both looked very good in this game.
Cutler would finish the game 4-of-5 with 38 yards, one interception and one touchdown. All five of his attempts were intended for Marshall. Forte was the MVP of that first quarter, though, racking up 74 yards on eight carries and scoring one TD. The offensive line struggled early on, but really rebounded well. They not only opened up big running lanes, but also kept a clean pocket after that opening series.
After watching all of those plays, I would say that while there were still a few key mistakes — two sacks and a pick — for only their second game in the new system and with quite a bit of new personnel, it was relatively successful.
What we need to see moving forward is the influx of the other options. We saw Cutler target Marshall every time he got off an attempt. If that doesn’t change, they won’t see the improvement that everyone is hoping for.
Now, obviously, it was only one quarter and they only got off five passes. That’ll be different over the course of a full game, and they’ll surely look for Marshall early and often in most games anyway, because why wouldn’t they. But with Alshon Jeffery, Forte, Martellus Bennett and eventually Earl Bennett, they have quality targets who will open up the offense and ultimately get this offense to where it needs to be.
The third preseason game is coming up next, and typically that’s when the first-teamers see their most action. It’ll be interesting to see if they can do just that in some extended time.