No Reserve Power

CLEVELAND _ Pay no attention to that ugly mess the Bears' passing attack left on the field throughout most of preseason.

Everything will be all right when the regular season begins.

That's the theory Bears coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Rex Grossman put forth Friday night after another inconsistent aerial effort in a 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the preseason finale.

"Next week's for real, we get to get into the flow of the game, we get to game plan, we get to run all the plays that we haven't been running; everything is for real and we're all real excited," Grossman said. "This game is behind us, it's done. We get the weekend off to rest a little bit and then come back Monday strong.

"We're all pumped up to play Detroit in Soldier Field in the season opener."

In fairness to both the Bears' offense and defense, it may have looked ugly partly because coaches gave numerous healthy starters a night off entirely rather than risk injuries.

The Bears' top four linebackers sat out the game. Brian Urlacher (hamstring), Marcus Reese (hamstring) and Joe Odom (calf strain) were injured and Lance Briggs got the night off. Other healthy starters who took the night off were safety Mike Brown, running back Thomas Jones, safety Mike Green, wide receiver Bobby Wade, cornerback Charles Tillman and center Olin Kreutz.

Still, that didn't explain away a sack allowed and false start penalty by inexperienced starting left tackle Qasim Mitchell.

"Q is our left tackle, guys are going to give up some plays from time to time," Smith said. "I think overall we look at his entire camp. You just can't put everything into one thing that happened tonight, one game, the last preseason game of the year when we're holding out a lot of plays."

Nor could the Bears' overall inconsistency in the passing game throughout preseason be passed off entirely on a lack of game planning. Grossman completed 2-of-9 for 31 yards in three first-quarter possessions Friday that produced four first downs and Paul Edinger's 44-yard field goal to cut the Bears' first-quarter deficit to 7-3.

"It's not a panic situation with the passing game," Smith said. "We like Rex, we like the receivers, we were minus a receiver tonight -- Bobby Wade didn't play.

"We'll be fine with the passing game this week once we get everything in."

Grossman finished preseason 20-of-48 for 220 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

"I don't really care about my stats right now," Grossman said. "I felt comfortable with my progressions and as soon as we get into the flow of a game -- play four quarters and game plan during the week -- I'll feel great about our offense.

"What we've been doing in practice and the whole off-season put together gives me a whole lot of confidence in what we're going to do next week. The last couple of games have just been unfortunate situations that we couldn't move the ball as much as we wanted to. Next week it's for real, it's completely different and, like I've said, we're all excited about it."

Cleveland (3-1) won the game when Luke McCown found Andre King for a 12-yard touchdown pass and Richard Alston with a 35-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie

Reserves like Adrian Peterson and Daryl Jones made important statements in bids to secure roster spots Friday while other players may have cost themselves jobs or starting spots.

One Bears starter who played briefly was defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. He saw action early in a pass rush specialist role.

"We only wanted to get him a few snaps so he wouldn't be playing in a game for the first time next week against Detroit," Smith said. "We're pleased with what he was able to do."

Ogunleye had one hurry of quarterback Jeff Garcia on a third-down incompletion during Cleveland's first possession.

"It felt good," Ogunleye said. "I'm just trying to get some of the rust off. I haven't played with any contact against an opponent since the Pro Bowl -- and that's not really like a real live game.

"I feel like I'll definitely be ready for the opener."

Some players seemed to cement roster positions while others either played themselves out of roster spots or starting spots with final roster cutdown to 53 players coming on Sunday.

Cornerback Todd McMillon came into the game thinking he had a chance to be a starter on opening day due to R.W. McQuarters' pulled hamstring. He then had a disastrous effort and after the game Smith said McQuarters was likely to start against the Lions, anyway.

On the Browns' third possession of the game, quarterback Jeff Garcia got his team out of a hole by beating McMillon with a 16-yard completion to Quincy Morgan. Later that possession, he picked on McMillon again for a 37-yard touchdown bomb to Andre Davis and 7-0 lead with 6:32 left in the first quarter.

Garcia finished with 84 yards passing in one quarter and the Bears gave up 101 first-quarter passing yards.

"We need to tighten that up," Smith said.

Peterson finished as the Bears' leading rusher in preseason and led the Bears' two scoring drives in the first half. He finished with 68 yards on 18 carries and had 15 rushing yards on a 10-play, 27-yard drive to Paul Edinger's 44-yard first-quarter field goal, which brought the Bears within 7-3.

Then Peterson, who is in a roster battle with Brock Forsey, scored on a 1-yard TD dive for a 10-7 lead one play after making a 6-yard run which included second and third efforts.

Peterson finished preseason with 47 rushes for 214 yards and three TDs.

"Adrian has been good all training camp and it's good to see him continue to do it in games," Smith said.

Forsey finished with 10 rushes for 24 yards and was stuffed on a fourth-and-one with five minutes to play.

"These next couple of days I'll play the waiting game, just kind of cross my fingers and hope I don't get a phone call on Sunday," said Forsey.

Jones, who is in a roster battle with veteran Ahmad Merritt, made a 19-yard second-quarter reception to set up Peterson's TD run. Meanwhile, Merritt had a first-half offensive pass interference penalty and then in the third quarter committed the Bears' first offensive turnover of preseason when he lost a fumble on a reverse at the Bears' 38-yard line.

"My gut instinct is I did all I can do," said Jones, a former New York Giant who was cut last year. "I know not to get anxious about anything. I've been in this position before."

Merritt's lost fumble gave Cleveland field position to tie the score 10-10 on Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

Reserve quarterback Craig Krenzel finished 6-of-17 for 79 yards in his most extensive playing time of preseason.

The Bears must cut 23 players from their roster on Sunday.


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