Tonight's matchup between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants was a dress rehearsal of sorts. Both teams played their starters the entire first half, giving us a good idea of where the Bears stand compared to the elite competition in the NFL.
While the final score may have showed a Chicago win, the Giants were the dominant team when the starters were on the field. New York was up 17-7 at half, with 13 first downs compared to the Bears' 5. Chicago's offense had only one good drive, which ended in a Brandon Marshall touchdown but beyond that, they struggled mightily.
The defense also had their issues containing Eli Manning and the Giants' offense. All around, the Bears didn't look awful but they definitely have a lot of work left to do.
On a positive note, Chicago walked away from the game unscathed, with no significant injuries to report.
News and notes from Bears vs. Giants
-My biggest concern with the offense is the lack of a rushing attack. The Bears rushed for 118 yard in the first two preseason games combined. They did manage 94 yards tonight but for just 3.5 yards per carry. That number was also inflated from a 19-yard reverse by Devin Hester, as well as Chicago's offense leaving the first team out against New York's backups to start the second half. RB Matt Forte was hit in the backfield on almost every carry, with the Bears' starting front five failing to get any push up front.
This is a problem going forward. Talent at the skill positions won't mean much if Chicago's offense is forced to be one-dimensional. If the Bears can't run the ball, the play action won't be as effective, defenses will sit back in deep zone coverage, and the passing attack will struggle. The offensive line must start opening holes, and soon.
-One of the worst culprits in the rushing game was LT J'Marcus Webb. On a couple of occasions, he was beat badly at the point off attack, allowing the defender to stuff the runner in the backfield. Yet in pass protection, Webb was solid. He showed good balance and footwork and did not give up any significant pressure.
Webb played the entire first quarter before being replaced by Chris Williams, who immediately allowed DE Osi Umenyiora to fly right past him. Williams had a poor night overall and for that reason it appears Webb has won the starting left tackle job. For a better or worse, Webb will protect QB Jay Cutler's blindside once the regular season starts.
-The same goes for Chris Spencer, who was being challenged for the starting left guard gig by Chilo Rachal. Spencer was solid all night, while Rachal had a couple of bad missed blocks. Spencer will almost assuredly line up next to Webb during Week 1.
-Two of Chicago's defensive stalwarts, CB Charles Tillman and LB Lance Briggs, had horrible outings. Briggs missed three tackles by my count – this from a guy that will go an entire season without missing three tackles. Briggs struggled to bring down ball carriers last week as well.
Yet even worse was Tillman. The Giants decided to pick on Peanut in the first half and there was nothing he could do about. Play after play, Tillman was beat by a receiver in blue, culminating in a poor coverage effort that allowed Ramses Barden to score a touchdown.
During our subscriber chat, one member wondered aloud if age isn't catching up to these two, as both are 31. I'm not ready to go there yet but these are two players that must raise their level of play by Week 1, otherwise this defense will be in dire straits.
-Jay Cutler had a horrible night. He overthrew a handful of passes and just did not appear to be on the same page as his receivers. He said as much during the contest.
"We just looked off tonight," Cutler said. "Our communication was lacking. We missed some stuff we should have hit. We left a few plays out there."
-Brandon Marshall led all Bears receivers with five catches for 51 yards. He looked dominant on both the underneath and deep routes. He was targeted 10 times, six more than any other player on the team. It just goes to show how Cutler is going to consistently look Marshall's in every game this season.
-If we're handing out game balls, then mine goes to P Ryan Quigley. Filling in for Adam Podlesh, who suffered a hip flexor last week, the rookie Quigley was outstanding. He averaged 43.6 yards on seven punts and was perfect as a holder on field goals and extra punts. It was a strong showing from a player no one was sure about heading into this contest.
-I've said it before so I'll try not to beat a dead horse but Jason Campbell worries me. He constantly checks down and when he does throw deep, he's usually off target. He's not going to kill the offense if called into duty but the team will need to consistently execute drives of 10 or more plays if they want to score points with Campbell under center.
-On at least two occasions, DE Shea McClellin dropped into coverage on zone blitzes. CB D.J. Moore has proven to be an effective blitzer out of the slot. Opposing offenses will likely look to the hot route when Moore rushes the passer. If McClellin can drop into that passing lane and utilize his speed and athleticism, he could be in line for a couple of pick-sixes this season.
-Last week, Kyle Adams served as the team's starting F-back – the hybrid fullback/tight end – but this week, rookie Evan Rodriguez filled that role. E-Rod had a few nice blocks and appears to have leapfrogged Adams on the depth chart.
-As usual, FB Tyler Clutts got few reps with the first team. Coordinator Mike Tice is obviously leaning toward the F-back, and not the fullback, in serving as the club's full-time lead blocker.
-With the Bears releasing third-string running back Kahlil Bell yesterday, the door opened for Lorenzo Booker and Armando Allen. During training camp, Allen was a stud, demonstrating great quickness, agility and pass-catching ability. He showed some of that tonight, pulling in four passes for 31 yards.
Yet the better player was Booker. His ability to make defenders miss with quick, sharp cuts is impressive. He also caught 4 passes for 30 yards, and as a kick returner, he's dynamic and explosive. If I had to put my money on one of these two making the final 53-man roster, it would be Booker.
-LB J.T. Thomas had a heck of a night. With Dom DeCicco out indefinitely with a groin injury, the club's sixth linebacker spot is up for grabs. Thomas had a strong run stuff and a blocked punt, which is likely good enough to earn him a place on the roster.
-For a while late in the first half, things snowballed out of control for the Bears in every phase of the game. Things got so bad that, on the fist drive of the second half, Earl Bennett dropped a touchdown pass. Let me repeat that: Bennett, the receiver with the best hands in the NFL, dropped a TD. You know things aren't going right when Bennett is leaving points on the board.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.