The first unit had breakdowns and penalties, allowing a 14-play drive on Miami’s first possession, but after that, very little, with backup units producing four takeaways.
“We misplayed our linebacker alignment, that was for plus-27 [yards],” Bears head coach John Fox said. “We weren’t very crisp on third down. There were a couple conversions we had called for a penalty to give them a first down on a third-down situation. So it wasn’t as clean as we like but first preseason game with a new staff usually isn’t.”
The first requirement of the line was to control at the point of attack. The “wave” concept that Fox spoke of in camp was quickly evident Thursday, with a starting down-three of Jarvis Jenkins-Jeremiah Ratliff-Ego Ferguson but Eddie Goldman was in at nose tackle on Miami’s first drive. The Bears also showed a lot of rush packages with just two down-linemen, beginning with Ferguson and Ratliff, flanked by hybrids Jared Allen and Pernell McPhee. Allen nearly stopped the first Miami drive with a pass deflection.
Goldman was a force with surprising middle pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and was given a heavy dose of playing time.
Will Sutton played extensively through the final three quarters and was able to be disruptive in spots.
Sam Acho made a push to regain his spot in the first unit. For most of training camp Acho was the outside linebacker opposite McPhee. But Allen, having a strong camp, turned up as the starter on the depth chart Wednesday and against Miami. The reason appeared to be pass rush, with Allen getting steadily better rushing out of a stand-up, two-point stance, while Acho was getting too often locked up in pass rushes and not putting sufficient pressure from a position where it is demanded. Acho was able to record the Bears’ first sack with a second-effort move coming around Miami right tackle Donald Hawkins.
Acho helped put the game effectively out of reach with a leaping interception in the fourth quarter that led to a Robbie Gould field goal.
Rookie John Timu gave the Bears a second takeaway when he deflected a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass up in the air and made the interception falling on his back. The offense converted the takeaway into a touchdown run by Ka’Deem Carey.
Sherrick McManis made the defensive play of the game with a strip of the football from Dolphins running back Mike Gillislee in a fashion that takeaway legend Charles Tillman would have been proud of. He then recovered the ensuing fumble to set the offense up in Miami’s end of the field early in the third quarter. McManis also broke up a third-down slant pass to stop Miami’s second possession, and used perfect technique to go under a blocker and record a stop on a first-half Dolphins sweep.
At the other end of the grade book, Brock Vereen opened at free safety but was critically late getting over to cover Jarvis Landry on an out route from the 2-yard line for Miami’s first touchdown. Without knowing assignments and calls, it is difficult to completely critique, but Vereen was too deep when the play started and too late getting to an open receiver in a short-yardage goal-line situation where that simply cannot happen.
Vereen was on the bench after the first possession, replaced by Ryan Mundy in a move that could be permanent. Al Louis-Jean allowed LaRon Byrd to get behind him for a 34-yard completion in the second quarter.
Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who has been strong in coverage through camp, broke up a third-down pass with a hit as the ball arrived. Mitchell had to be helped off the field after a helmet-to-helmet collision making a tackle.
Rookie Adrian Amos was in on kick coverage and also at safety where he was decisive in run support and made stops with solid tackles. Cornerback Alan Ball added to the penalty count with a holding penalty to allow a second-quarter first down. He disrupted a throw into the end zone later.
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Marc Mariani, inserted as a wide receiver with the first unit in selected packages, made his bid for the job of punt returner with a 28-yard return in the second quarter. The run was called back when Demontre Hurst was called for a block in the back but Mariani got quickly to the second level, using his blocking effectively.
Gould raised some eyebrows with some uncharacteristic inaccuracy during last Saturday’s Soldier Field practice but was good from 48 and 23 yards in his only two tries against the Dolphins.