OK, yes, it was against the Oakland Raiders, but in the most important preseason game — that being the third where the starters played the entire first half — the Chicago Bears offense showed what it’s capable of.
The Bears scored on five of their six first-half possessions and took a commanding 27-0 lead before a last-second halftime field goal gave the Raiders three points. Chicago also did not turn over the ball in the first half, something they were unable to avoid in the first two preseason games as quarterback Jay Cutler threw an interception in each one. Another big positive is that Cutler was not sacked, and the offense as a whole only had three negative plays: a -2-yard run by Michael Bush, a low snap out of the shotgun that resulted in a -2-yard run by Cutler and a false start on rookie Jordan Mills.
But enough about what they were able to avoid; what they accomplished was most important and certainly very enjoyable to watch as a Bears fan.
In the first half, they amassed 252 yards, three touchdowns and two field goals. And they did that all on 37 plays, which I’d like to point out is a pace of 74 plays for the game, once again a very good number as I pointed out last week that the up-tempo West Coast offense is something new coach Marc Trestman is trying to put in place. Essentially, with as good as the first-teamers — both on offense and defense — played in this game, if it were a regular season affair that saw them play the entire game, they probably would’ve dropped 50 points.
It was the most efficient I’ve seen a Bears’ offense in all my years of watching — though, I suppose that’s only been about 10 years, but still. Granted, I once again have to come back to it’s only the lowly Raiders, who are without question a bottom-dwelling team again. But as a stepping stone, this game really does have to do wonders for the offense as a whole in buying into Trestman’s system and plan. Having the kind of success and execution that they did last night allows them to realize that as long as they continue to work and do what they’re doing, they can be a legitimate offensive threat in the NFL this season.
Matt Forte was again the star of the game. On only eight touches — six carries and two receptions — he totaled 109 yards and one receiving touchdown. He had big runs of 35 and 17 yards, as well as a 32-yard bubble screen that went for six. That TD came immediately off of a Tim Jennings interception, which it’s always great to see the offense reward the defense with a touchdown after they give them the ball back in great field position.
Cutler was also on point in this game. He completed 12-of-21 passes, and even though that isn’t a high percentage, it is deceiving. Perhaps the only negative of the game was that Bears’ receivers dropped five passes that were very catchable balls thrown by No. 6. Fendi Onobun dropped one (which makes three in the preseason and he’s likely to get cut) and Martellus Bennett and Brandon Marshall each dropped two, though those are really aberrations and uncharacteristic of both players. Also, one of Cutler’s incompletions came on a smart throw away, something Bears fans won’t hold against him with the amount of times he’s forced it somewhere instead.
So, despite the completion percentage being lower than it could’ve been with some production left on the field, Cutler was very good. He only had one ball that had a chance at being intercepted, and it was a 50-50 ball between Marshall and one defender, so that’s not bad either. The Vanderbilt product finished the night with 142 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 93.8.
On the receiving end, Alshon Jeffery had a big night. He had seven catches for 77 yards, and was stopped only inches shy of the goalline on one reception, which setup Bush with one of his two touchdown runs of the first half. Bennett also had a 16-yard reception over the middle for a first-down. Rookie Marquess Wilson got some playing time with the first-team offense as well as he had a 13-yard catch over the middle, and it appears he may be the fourth receiver this year behind Earl Bennett. Marshall was held without a catch on four targets.
All in all, the Bears looked good last night, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come in 2013, things can only be looking positive as we close in on the regular season.