CINCINNATI – Coach John Fox didn’t necessarily want a lot from his offense Saturday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, just progress. He didn’t get it.
Beset again by penalties on top of injuries depleting the wide-receiver group, the No. 1 offense played into the third quarter and for the third time this preseason failed to get the football into the end zone. The No. 1 offense, which punted to end its first four possessions, has scored just four field goals/12 total points, a result likely to stand unless coaches decide the unit needs to do something more before the Green Bay Packers come to Soldier Field on Sept. 13.
“I wouldn’t say we improved,” Fox said. “I don’t know that ‘disappointed’ is right.”
It might be the right word as far as some players were concerned after too many mistakes. The Bears had at least one penalty on five of their nine offensive possessions, a total of 12 flags for 117 yards. Not all were on the offense, but the offense managed just 194 total yards.
With the injuries at wide receiver, the Bears’ plan was to run the football more. They had their worst preseason outing rushing the ball at a time when they focused on it and had to do it.
“Without looking at the tape, some of the things were that they were the first 4-3 team in base defense that we've played,” Fox said. “I don't know that we reacted really well to that. But overall, our execution wasn't as good in the run game as it has been. It was an area we did not improve."
If there was a twist it was that the Bengals play a 4-3 scheme similar to the one the Bears played and practiced against for most of the past decade-plus. Yet they were unable to mount any drive longer than 50 yards (54).
“Other than the first series when we had the third-and-short, the rest of them we were killing ourselves with penalties,” said quarterback Jay Cutler.
Jay Cutler finished his preseason without throwing an interception – and without a touchdown pass – and a passer rating of 91.6 after completing 13 of 17 passes for just 98 yards against the Bengals. Jimmy Clausen completed five of eight before being knocked out of the game on a blow to the head by linebacker P.J. Dawson while Clausen was in the middle of a slide at the end of a run. David Fales completed his only attempt.
"The good news is, I don't think we've turned it over a bunch,” Fox said. “We have moved the ball. Jay has been efficient.”
Not having the projected top four wide receivers for 2015 (including Kevin White) counts for something, but not for much, and Fox has been clear that no one is coming to the Bears’ rescue either with personnel help yet, or game cancellations.
Martellus Bennett gave the Bears at least something, catching all six of the passes thrown to him in the first half, albeit on shorter patterns for a total of 37 yards. Bennett added a seventh catch early in the third quarter, giving him a team-leading 11 receptions through the three preseason games.
Rashad Lawrence started at one wideout position and caught a Jay Cutler pass for a 16-yard gain in the second quarter. Lawrence, however, dropped the ball on a simple third-down crossing pattern and was not crisp on route-running as Cutler appeared to be holding the football longer and longer as the first half went along.
Josh Bellamy was unable to make much of his starting shot, catching one pass for six yards in the half. Marc Mariani caught his two “targets,” one a falling-down grab in the first half, for his first two receptions of the preseason.
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Tight end Dante Rosario did not help his roster chances with a dropped pass and false-start penalties in the third and fourth quarters, the latter followed on the next trip to the line by a holding penalty.
"We came into the game light at the receiver position,” Fox said. “We were going to lean on the run some. I don't think our execution was great in that area - that's all involved.”
After two successful games committing to and staying with the run, the Bears sputtered on offense, running just 46 total plays, 18 of them run after penalties forced the offense into passing situations.
Jeremy Lanford (6-17), Matt Forte (6-16) and Jacquizz Rodgers (2-9) were what there was of a ground game.