The Chicago Bears won their first preseason contest of 2013 with a 33-28 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field. It was a cool August evening with temperatures in the 60s for most of the contest. Despite the fact it was a meaningless game, Bears fans filled the stadium to get their first look at Marc Trestman and his new team.
-Inactives: RB Armando Allen, LB D.J. Williams, LS Patrick Mannelly, DT Henry Melton, T Jonathan Scott, WR Earl Bennett and DE Julius Peppers.
-DT Corvey Irvin left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. X-ray results are pending.
-QB Matt Blanchard left in the third quarter with an injury to his left hand and did not return. Trestman said after the game that Blanchard has a fracture on his knuckle. He did not know how long he’ll be out.
Notes from Week 2
-The player of the game is running back Matt Forte, who carried the ball eight times for 74 yards, which included a 58-yard scamper during the second drive of the game. It was an outside-zone run left that was extremely well blocked. Forte reached the corner with just one man to beat. He put a juke on the defender and was then off to the races. Later in the quarter, he scored his first touchdown of the preseason on a three-yard plunge following a turnover.
Folks haven’t talked much about Forte this offseason but he will surely be the centerpiece of Trestman’s offense this year. And if tonight’s performance is any indication, he’s ready to carry the load.
-So you wanted to see Trestman’s passing offense in action? Too bad. Of the 51 plays Chicago’s offense ran in this game, just 14 were pass attempts. As a club, the Bears rushed the ball 37 times for 143 yards (3.9 average) and two touchdowns. Last week, the first and second team offenses were in passing mode, so Trestman obviously made it a priority to pound the rock against the Chargers.
Michael Ford received the most carries (15) but managed just 28 yards on the ground. His 1.9 yards per carry leave a lot to be desired, yet Ford was outstanding as a kick returner. He returned three kicks for 160 yards, which included a 100-yard run that nearly resulted in a touchdown. With Armando Allen nursing a hamstring injury, Ford is playing his way onto the 53-man roster. Allen needs to get back on the field if he’s going to hold off Ford as the club’s No. 3 running back.
-The offense started the first series with a three-and-out that included two sacks allowed. Yet that is no indictment of the offensive line, as the first sack was the fault of TE Martellus Bennett and the second was a coverage sack. From that point on, the pass protection was great, particularly on the right side, where rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills started.
Both of the youngsters were outstanding in this game. I did not expect much out of Mills, as he looked horrible in practice this week, but he showed up tonight. He was stout on the edge both as a run and pass blocker, and I may have to eat crow soon. He made a few mistakes but overall, Mills was solid.
Yet it was Long who really shined tonight. In pass protection, Long was a brick wall. His balance out of his stance is phenomenal and once he locked on, it was curtains for the defender. And as a run blocker, he mauled. He blew defensive linemen back at the point of attack, was quick down the line on pulls and traps, and was super at the second level.
Two plays by Long truly stood. The first was a kickout block in which Long exploded into the defender and knocked him on his butt. The second was a goal-line play where he basically cleared out the entire defensive line, with Mills cleaning up behind him.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we’re still very early in the process, but right now, it appears Long and Mills are starter-worthy offensive linemen.
-Julius Peppers sat out tonight’s game. Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin were the defensive end starters, and both picked up a sack in the game. The first was by Wootton, who powered past his blocker on an inside rip move. McClellin followed that up with a speed rush that made T King Dunlap look silly. After blowing past his blocker, McClellin strip-sacked the quarterback, with Major Wright recovering the fumble. The Bears appear to be three-deep at the defensive end position, which should create a formidable rotation during the regular season.
-DT Nate Collins continues to impress. He followed up his strong outing in the preseason opener by picking up three tackles, one for a loss, and a sack. Henry Melton (concussion) did not play tonight but it appears the Bears won’t be in dire straits for as long as Collins is the backup.
-Brandon Marshall had the second most targets in the league last year. Under Trestman, most assumed that Cutler would distribute the ball more evenly this season. Yet they assumed wrong. Cutler attempted five passes tonight, all of them to Marshall. Four of them resulted in completions, which included a five-yard TD, which is the good news. The bad news is that the one incompletion was a horrible interception that reminded everyone of Chicago’s 29th-ranked passing offense last season.
On the play, Cutler was pressured off the right edge. He stepped up into the pocket and fired a ball down the middle of the field. Marshall ran a skinny post off the right hash, yet he was bracketed by two defenders, one in each hip. The pass came up short and was easily intercepted by linebacker Donald Butler. If Cutler’s infatuation with Marshall doesn’t end soon, and if he refuses to spread the ball around, Trestman or no Trestman, Chicago’s passing attack will never take that next step forward.
-Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene did not follow up on their strong performances in the preseason opener. Bostic struggled mightily in coverage and had a hard time tracking ball carriers in the run game. On the Chargers’ second-quarter touchdown run, both Greene and Bostic were driven right out of the play at the point of attack.
Yet, even though his overall performance was sub-par, Bostic had one of the biggest hits of the preseason to this point. The Chargers ran a bubble screen to wide receiver Mike Willie. Bostic sprinted out to the left flat and laid a hit on Willie that snapped the receiver’s head backward. The ball came loose, and replays showed it to be a borderline fumble, but it was ruled incomplete. Either way, this play showed Bostic’s ability to lay the lumber.
-Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis discussed this week his desire to see if rookie wide receiver Marquess Wilson is a “contact player.” We know what he can do as a receiver but is he player who will stick his nose in and make a tackle in coverage? Based on tonight’s performance, the answer is ‘no.’ Twice on kick coverage, Wilson had a shot to make a tackle but he shied away from contact on both occasions. If he’s going to make the team, Wilson must excel as a wideout, because he’s no help on special teams.
-DT Christian Tupou had a sack late in the game. He’s buried on the depth chart but his sack tonight could earn him a few more second-team reps this week.
-J.T. Thomas is the club’s seventh linebacker. In order for him to make the team, he must convince the coaching staff of his value on special teams. Tonight, he may have done just that after blocking a fourth-quarter punt and then having the wherewithal to pounce on the loose ball. Those types of individual efforts on special teams have won countless players a spot on the final 53-man roster.
-The Bears used a number of different blitz packages tonight. It’s obvious that coordinator Mel Tucker is going to be very creative when getting after the quarterback this year. Unfortunately, none of those blitzes finished. During the two-minute drill to end the first half, Tucker blitzed on nearly every snap, and the Chargers marched right down the field for a touchdown. Tucker needs to get back to the drawing board if he’s going to get consistent pressure from his blitz packages.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.