Bears head coach John Fox said this week that his idea of a good offensive performance would be a nice 12-play touchdown drive. He didn’t get quite what he’d hoped for.
Penalties and miscommunications between quarterback and receivers thwarted the No. 1 offense, which managed a total of three points and four penalties over its two possessions. The second of those at least covered 61 yards in 12 plays and resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal of 48 yards, but that was necessitated by a false-start penalty when the Bears were attempting a conversion on fourth-and-2.
“For the first game, the first time they’ve ever executed the offense in a game, not bad,” Fox said. “Too many penalties. It took us a minute to get rolling. I think we had one good drive in there with the first group.”
Jay Cutler completed four of seven passes for 42 yards and finished with a passer rating (74.7) nearly identical with what he generated in the Bears’ dismal home loss last season to the Dolphins (74.4). Since Cutler lost a fumble and an interception the last time he faced Miami, Thursday could be taken as at least some incremental improvement, particularly as he continued an interception-free run since the start of training camp.
Cutler was on the field for 15 snaps on two first-half possessions. The results were so-so against a Miami defense that ranked 12th in yardage allowed last season and added Ndamukong Suh to its front.
Somewhat concerning was Cutler seemed to be out of phase with receivers that he has had solid connections. He and Eddie Royal miscommunicated on what might have been a huge gain, with Royal running a square-out and Cutler throwing a deep ball down the left sideline in the second quarter. Cutler then overthrew Martellus Bennett.
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“We had to bump Eddie outside with Alshon [Jeffery] being down,” Cutler said. “He’s had a lot of work inside where he’s probably more effective. I wanted to go high, but he broke it off left tight. Just some things for us to work on and get better at.”
Jimmy Clausen played most of the game, beginning with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter and made a solid showing playing with an assortment of backs, receivers and linemen. Clausen finished 17-for-27 passing, with 151 yards and generated 17 points in his time on the field.
“It’s been a hard time at different times, learning [the new offense],” Clausen said. “But I think we’re starting to get the hang of it and starting to roll with it.”
With Matt Forte held out of the game, the run game was about seeing what lies behind him on the depth chart. Jacquizz Rodgers provided the offense with some pop in the run game, netting 26 yards on six first-quarter carries.
Rookie Jeremy Langfordtook a screen pass for six yards on his first snap and followed that with a five-yard run on the second.
Ka’Deem Carey, in a stiff roster battle with Langford, helped himself when he was stacked up on a fourth-and-goal play from the one, then bounced the play around right end for a touchdown, matching his rookie total of last preseason.
Running backs averaged 5.0 yards per carry and got touchdowns from Carey and Senorise Perry (54-yard run) and totaled 166 in a game plan that balanced run and pass nearly 50-50.
“I liked them in practice," Fox said. “I think as a coach you control practice, you make it as physical as you can and try to keep your guys healthy. So this is the first time for us as a coaching staff and them as players with us.”
The line struggled initially but then settled into a rhythm as offensive coordinator Adam Gase continued to run the football throughout.
Penalties were an unseemly part of the offense. Center Will Montgomery committed a false start on a fourth-and-2. Jordan Mills did himself and the offense no favors with a false start on the first trip to the line of scrimmage. Mills was beaten on an inside counter move by Cameron Wake that would have resulted in a crushing sack of Cutler. The play was nullified by offsetting holding penalties, one on left tackle Jermon Bushrod.
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Credit Kyle Long for alertly coming out of his stance when a Dolphin lineman stepped into the neutral zone. Long and Mills combined for a double-team of Wake that sprung Rodgers for a 15-yard sprint. Rookie center Hroniss Grasu was driven into the backfield by massive Dolphins rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, stuffing Langford for a three-yard loss. But Grasu, who drew a holding penalty in the fourth quarter, was steady in his first NFL moments and directed pass protection well around Clausen.
The position group has an in-limbo feel with Alshon Jeffery sustaining a calf strain that had him in a walking boot and on crutches. This on top of Kevin White still out with a shin injury, and it is unclear whether either of the intended top two receivers will play this preseason.
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Cameron Meredith, the rookie undrafted free agent from Illinois State, caught four of the six passes thrown to him. With the injuries to Jeffery and White, the need may be to keep an extra receiver for insurance and Meredith, at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, could be a fit.
“All the receivers looked good tonight,” Clausen said. “I was just trying to spread the ball around to different guys. In this offense, anybody can get the ball at any time, and I thought they did a great job of making plays when plays were there.”