Tomorrow the columns will come. Oh lawd, will they come. They will smarm and snicker, they will laugh at you for having the unmitigated GALL for getting excited based on the Bears starters putting on a clinic on both sides of the ball. "Tis the preseason!" they will shout. "'Tis the woeful Raiders!" they will cry. They will do this while ignoring that they spent the last week making comments about Cutler favoring Brandon Marshall too much or claiming his interception is proof he won't make the reads necessary to fit Trestman's offense, because the preseason only matters when they say it does.
The truth is this: there's probably not too much we saw tonight that we can use to predict regular season performance. Even garbage teams (and my God, these Raiders are terrible) will rarely roll over for 27 points in the first half. That said, it's worth noting that the Bears offenses of previous seasons have rarely blown anyone away even in the exhibition slate, and the offensive line especially has struggled to keep Jay upright even against some rather lackluster competition. They did both tonight, and dammit, let no one begrudge you of your right to feel modestly optimistic that maybe the offense won't suck eggs for once.
To the breakdown:
The Offensive Line: Jay dropped back 21 times and was never sacked. The only time he was even touched came on a bad snap, and they committed just one penalty. Forte and Bush rushed for a combined 13 rushes for 97 YDs and 2 TDs in the first half, which averages out to 7.5 yards per rush, and 4.8 yards per rush if you're using the Hub Arkush metric and automatically discounting the longest run of the game because it gets in the way of your argument. I don't know if Kyle Long was as dominant as he was last week, but he and Mills were both mostly flawless in pass protection and the Bears gained positive yards almost every time they ran to their side. It seems like the kids will be there on opening day, so it's good to see that they at least seem to be something other than awful.
The Defense: Matt Flynn is terrible and I will maintain that opinion to the grave, but it's still comforting to see the Bears hold a shit offense to just 3 pts (on a freaking massive kick from Sebastian Janikowski, nonetheless) and less than 100 yards of offense. In roughly twelve drives this preseason, the Bears starting defense has allowed just 3 points and forced five turnovers. Again, it's the preseason, but it's better than the alternative.
Jay Cutler: The statsheet will say he was 12/21, but he suffered six drops and missed on just three attempts. He was spot on all night, made great decisions, distributed the ball well, and for the first time all preseason worked in some deep balls and some intermediate throws. This will be his final action of the preseason, and he finished 22/34 (64.7%) for 236 yds (7.0 YPA), 2 TDs, 2 INTs, and an 80.0 rating. None of those numbers is particularly impressive, but they'd have been a lot better without the drops tonight and the pick against Carolina that came from Alshon's mistake. The first team offense under Cutler scored 41 points in 13 drives. If there's anything to take from those numbers, it's that if Jay can keep the completion % high and keep drives alive to allow the Bears to use Forte as often as possible, the team will score a lot of points.
Matt Forte: Make no mistake about it folks, for all of the talk about this being Jay's big year, and even though the Bears will undoubtedly throw the ball more than they ever have in the Cutler Era, the success of this offense still depends on Matt Forte. Trestman gets that. Tice tried to get it, but he wrongfully assumed that meant using Forte as the basis of a power offense. Trestman knows that you can run an offense through a runningback by throwing to him as well, and Forte showed what he can do on his 32 yard TD catch on a simple swing route. Charlie Garner caught 91 passes under Trestman in 2002. Forte should be licking his chops. Not to say that he'll be under-used as a runner, considering he's run it 14 times for 150 yds in the last two games.
Alshon Jeffery: I don't know if Jeffery will ever run anything that isn't a slant route all year long. He may not have to. It's working well so far, as he had 7 catches for 77 yards, almost all on slants. I just hope he can stay healthy, because he and Marshall can really be something special together.
Brandon Marshall: Not his night. No need to say anymore, he's roughly 950th on my list of concerns about the Bears offense, but yeah....couple of really bad drops. Oh well. Brandon Marshall is awesome.
Fendi Onobun: For anyone who misses Kellen Davis, Fendi seems more than willing to fill the role of athletic tight end who does everything but actually catch the goddamn ball. The sad thing is he might still make the roster, because the depth at tight end behind Marty B is....uninspiring. God damn you, Evan Rodriguez.
J'Marcus Webb: He didn't really play horribly, but another holding penalty was the last thing he needed with his roster spot as tenuous as it can be. For as much as I've been hard on the guy all offseason, he still has more upside than a guy like Jon Scott, but he's done himself no favors as far as convincing the coaching staff.
That's all for now. I won't be doing a recap next week, because the fourth preseason game is garbage, but I look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks when things actually matter. Hopefully we'll see a Bears offense that looks at least somewhat like the one we saw in the first half tonight. Either way, real football is near and there's a lot of reason to be excited. Go Bears.