It must have been a heck of a pep talk from "Da Coach," Mike Ditka, in practice this week. Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler sliced the Oakland Raider defense for 142 yards and a touchdown, running back Matt Forte powered his way to 76 yards, and that was in just a half.
The Chicago first-stringers left the game with a dominating 27-3 lead, and it really wasn't even that close. The Bears won their third preseason game 34-26, and it was the best the team has looked, well, since "Iron Mike" was roaming the sidelines himself.
Too bad it's just the preseason.
But there's plenty for Bears fans to feel good about. Cutler worked primarily out of short drops, and used quick strike passes to hit wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett for completions right away on the first drive. Jeffery finally had a breakout performance, leading all receivers with seven catches for 77 yards. And this was the same Cutler who didn't target a single receiver not named Brandon Marshall last week in San Diego.
In fact, Marshall was the only blemish on the nearly flawless effort from the Bears' offense. In atypical fashion, Chicago's all-world receiver dropped a pair of catchable balls in the first half.
Maybe the most impressive aspect of the offensive clinic; no sacks on Cutler. Zero. Head coach Marc Trestman's offense was in full display, making the days of seven-step drops and holding the football for seconds on end under Lovie Smith and his plethora of coordinators seem antiquated as ever. The new-look offensive line acquitted itself well again, and rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills continue to look the part on the right side. Long was especially impressive on the Bears' second drive of the game, helping spring Matt Forte for a lightning-quick 32-yard screen pass for the game's first touchdown.
Meanwhile, another dominating defensive effort was overshadowed. When is the last time THAT was written about the Chicago Bears?
The first five Oakland drives consisted of three punts, a missed field goal and two interceptions. If you're counting, that's three turnovers (one on downs) and no points. It's not unusual to see an opportunistic Bears' defense, but any concerns that it would take a step back under the offensive-minded Trestman appear to be unwarranted.
Leading the defense once again was rookie Jon Bostic, who led the Bears with eight tackles, including one for a loss. Bostic looked quick once again, catching fleet-footed Terelle Pryor on a QB scamper in the second half to hold the Raiders on third down. The former Florida Gator seems to have cemented himself as the opening day starter.
It was also a successful debut for star defensive end Julius Peppers, who officially registered one tackle for loss, but more importantly stayed healthy after battling a leg injury.
All in all, there really couldn't have been a better way to finish the final dress-rehersal for the starters before the regular season. Now, it's all about staying healthy between now and the September 8th opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
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