The Chicago Bears headed into the O.co Coliseum in Oakland and exploded out of the gates, scoring 27 unanswered points to open the contest. The starting units built a 24-point leading heading into the half, a lead that the backups nearly squandered. Still, it was a solid dress rehearsal before a final preseason game in which the starters will hardly see the field.
-The following players did not participate: DT Henry Melton, T Jonathan Scott, DT Corvey Irvin, WR Earl Bennett, DE Cheta Ozougwu, QB Matt Blanchard, RB Armando Allen, RB Harvey Unga, LB D.J. Williams, LS Patrick Mannelly.
DE Julius Peppers, who hasn’t played yet in the preseason, performed in the first quarter tonight, which is a good sign that he’ll be ready to go once the regular season begins.
CB Zack Bowman was knocked out of the game with a hamstring injury.
Notes from Preseason Week 3
As we’ve seen in the past, when you give Jay Cutler time to throw, he’s actually pretty darn good. That’s exactly what Chicago’s new-look offensive line did against Oakland, not allowing a single sack and only a few pressures. Cutler was clean the entire night, completing 12 of 21 pass attempts for 142 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, good for a 93.8 QB rating.
Cutler completed passes to five different receivers, which was a far cry from last week’s performance. His favorite target was WR Alshon Jeffery, who caught seven passes for 77 yards. Jeffery was a monster in this game and had his way with the Raiders’ secondary all night. A game like this instills in Cutler more confidence in the second-year wideout, which could pay big dividends in the regular season.
-WR Brandon Marshall was targeted four times but couldn’t haul one in. Two of those passes bounced right off his hands. Marshall has always been one to drop the occasional pass. It’s something you have to live with if you want his elite production.
Overall, the first-team offense dropped five passes, including one by TE Martellus Bennett. He was able to reel in his first catch of the preseason, a 12-yard hitch pattern that resulted in a first down.
-While Jeffery was good, RB Matt Forte was great. He played little more than the first quarter but he ended with 109 yards from scrimmage, including a 32-yard touchdown catch. The play involved Forte lining up in the left wing, with fellow RB Michael Bush next to Cutler in shotgun formation. Forte then motioned right until he was positioned just to Cutler’s right. At the snap, Forte swung right and Cutler fired a quick pass to him in the flats. Out in front, both Jeffery and Bennett made great blocks, which spring Forte for the long TD run.
Forte also had a 35-yard scamper, a play in which Jeffery again was able to tie up the wide corner, allowing the ball carrier to reach the second level untouched.
-The two rookies on the right side, RG Kyle Long and RT Jordan Mills, were again solid in this game. Each had his fair share of mistakes, particularly in blitz pickup, but both players opened holes in the run game and helped create a good pocket for Cutler. On Bush’s first-quarter touchdown run, Long cleared out two players to pave the way for his running back.
-RB Michael Ford may have clinched a roster spot last night. With Allen out, Ford stepped up in a big way. He was solid as a kick returner, averaging 25.5 yards on four returns, and rushed nine times for 58 yard (6.4 avg.). That included a 15-yard touchdown run in which Ford spun away from three would-be tacklers. With his performance against the Raiders, Ford may have played his way onto the final 53.
-The Bears gave WR Marquess Wilson reps with the first team tonight. He was targeted twice by Cutler, bringing in one pass for 14 yards. A strong performance next week could earn the seventh-round rookie a roster spot.
-Two players did not help themselves tonight in their respective bids to keep their jobs. TE Fendi Onobun dropped two wide-open passes and had a holding penalty. He dropped a touchdown in the preseason opener and has not shown any reliability as a pass catcher. At this point, Kyle Adams may end being the club’s No. 3 tight end, as Onobun just can’t get it done.
Up front, T J’Marcus Webb really struggled. He performed poorly, had two false-start penalties and one for holding. Jonathan Scott was on the field pre-game working out with the trainers, which is a sign he could return soon. If he does return to full health, Webb might be looking for a job in two weeks.
-Defensively, Chicago’s starting defense was dominant. They allowed just three points in the first half, which came on a last-second 58-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. Overall, the defense intercepted four passes and picked up three sacks.
-Charles Tillman was the first to earn a sack on a cornerback blitz. Coordinator Mel Tucker dialed up a number of secondary blitzes in this game and on this play, Tillman had a free run at Raiders QB Matt Flynn. Later in the game, Kyle Moore and Cornelius Washington both picked up sacks. Washington’s takedown was a speed rush that demonstrated his tremendous explosiveness off the edge.
-In the secondary, CB Isaiah Frey showed why he’s been the talk of the offseason, undercutting a Flynn pass for his first NFL interception. Also impressive was undrafted rookie C.J. Wilson, who broke up one pass and then grabbed an interception on the next snap. Frey is locked in as the club’s starting nickelback, while Wilson could earn a back-end roster spot with another strong performance next week.
-There is a lot to like about LB Jon Bostic but he still plays like a rookie, particularly in coverage. He just does not have the awareness and recognition skills to be effective on passing downs. He showed it in training camp and again last night. His worst effort came in the third quarter when TE Nick Kasa ran a seam pattern in Bostic’s zone. The rookie ran stride for stride with Kasa yet he never turned to find the ball, allowing Kasa to make the touchdown grab. If Bostic starts this season from the get-go, expect a lot of growing pains.
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.