The Bears won their preseason opener tonight 34-28, racking up 491 yards of total offense. 399 of those yards came through the air, as Bears quarterbacks completed 29 of 44 passes (65.9%) for 407 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, and just 2 sacks. Unfortunately for Jordan Palmer, both sacks and the first interception came while he was under center, and that should have some impact on things going forward.
Most importantly for the Bears, besides no starters suffering injuries during the game (although Jared Allen, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Tim Jennings, and Martellus Bennett all missed the game for various reasons), was the fact that the starters all seemed to play well. The first string offense looked very effective in brief duty, with Cutler leading a long scoring drive that culminated in a rocket strike to Zach Miller for a touchdown. The first string defensive line made it's presence known early on, with Jay Ratliff pressuring Nick Foles into one interception and Willie Young pressuring him into another. Preseason or no, the Eagles have a very good offensive line and those kinds of results are encouraging to see.
Most of the game was dominated by the backups, of course, and so we'll discuss the notables below.
Jay Cutler: He had a 41 yard bomb to Alshon wiped by penalty, but it was still a beautiful toss. Otherwise he was very effecient, completing nearly 70% of his passes, and the touchdown was pure armcock.
Pass Protection: I was nervous as hell with Cutler out there throwing 13 passes behind an offensive line that was missing Long and Mills, but the protection held up. The Bears dropped back 48 times and gave up two sacks, both of which came on indecisive plays from Jordan Palmer.
Zach Miller: The less famous of the two Zach Millers playing TE in the NFL right now made a strong case for the #2 job behind Marty (OR MAYBE FOR MARTY'S JOB- Hub Arkush, probably), and at least put to rest some worries about the Bears depth at the position with 6 catches for 68 yards and 2 TDs. Rosario added 3 catches for 28 yards, and Jeron Mastrud added 2 for 16, so the tight ends were featured heavily and performed well (which leads you to wonder if Trestman might be trying to scare Marty just a little, at least).
Defensive Line: They got only one sack, but as I mentioned above the first unit did a nice job shutting down the run and pressuring Foles into two terrible throws that led to turnovers. Ratliff especially looked like the terror that he was in Dallas before the injuries.
Kyle Fuller: He had three tackles and a pass breakup. He made a couple of mistakes in coverage but showed incredible closing speed to recover and break up the pass anyway. Encouraging start.
Jimmy Clausen: the stat sheet might say that Clausen was the least accurate Bears quarterback in the game, but he was by far the most impressive of the backups in reality. He was much quicker with his reads and progressions than Palmer, he got the ball out quickly, he delivered it with velocity, and both of touchdowns were good throws and better reads. There's no question he's the most talented of the group competing to be Jay's backup. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't at least get to lead the second string next week.
Jordan Lynch: Yeah I'll throw him a bone. He hit the hole quickly and decisively and gained some tough yards after contact. He definitely didn't look like a guy who has only been playing runningback for a few weeks.
Jordan Palmer: He did some good things. He was bailed out by his receivers on a couple of plays and he delivered a nice touchdown to Zach Miller, but sadly what stood out most about Palmer (and what has been the knock on him so far in camp) was his hesitation. He waited way too long on a deep ball to Chris Williams, letting the defense hit him as he threw, leading to a flutterball that was picked off. He held the ball too long on both sacks, one of which led to a fumble. The most important thing Trestman looks for in his backups especially (and the main thing we saw from Josh last year) is quick reads/throws and avoiding turnovers. Palmer struggled tonight.
Safeties and Linebackers in coverage: Eagles tight ends combined for 10 catches for 93 yards. Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic, and Brock Vereen were all caught out of position at one point or another on passes in the middle of the field. This is unsurprising given that those two spots are the biggest question marks on the team, but the early answer was not what we were hoping for.
Chris Williams Injury: Williams flashed some impressive speed and moves as a WR (although his hands were a bit unsteady), culminating in a 73 yard touchdown on a beautifully thrown deep ball by Clausen, but he pulled his hamstring on the play and may miss valuable time that he needed as he competed for a roster spot. It's a real shame, because this kid looked like he might have had a chance.
Brian De La Puente's Injury: The Bears finally make an outstanding depth signing on the interior line and find a potential Garza replacement at center and he gets hurt. Sigh.
Special Teams: Both punters struggled. Chad Rempel fucked up a long snap. A field goal got blocked. They allowed a return TD. That's...disconcerting.
The Broadcast: Look they've been doing this long enough for me to expect anything but total incompetence from Rosen and Miller, but God, they were terrible tonight. SOME HIGHLIGHTS:
- Jim Miller calling Northern Illinois a Division III school.
-Lou Canellis: "Before tonight Jimmy Clausen hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2010. A regular season game anyway." Well, Lou, he still hasn't.
-Sam Rosen just saying anything, ever. I can do without.
That's not to mention the worst thing of all, which was THE BROADCAST BEING COMPLETELY WORTHLESS FOR MOST OF THE FIRST QUARTER. No, it's cool, guys, no one actually wanted to see the starters. God.
That's all for now. There appeared to be no major, season-affecting injuries and nothing from the starting units appeared to be discouraging. The offense looked like a well-oiled machine even without several major contributors (none of whom should be out when the games actually matter, thank God). All in all a pretty good start.