Bears Start Strong & Finish With a Bang

CANTON, Ohio - For starters, Monday night's preseason opener was exactly what Bears coach Lovie Smith wanted to see from his team. The close wasn't too bad, either.

The Bears won 27-24 in the Hall of Fame Game over the Miami Dolphins as reserve running back Zack Abron's 4-yard touchdown run with 1:50 to play gave the Bears the go-ahead points.

Third string quarterback Kyle Orton bounced back from a critical interception to lead the winning 56-yard drive. Then cornerback Jerrell Pippens sealed the win with an interception of Brock Berlin in the end zone with 44 seconds left.

Whether it was linebacker Brian Urlacher's violent sack of Dolphins starting quarterback A. J. Feeley, a heavy pass rush from defensive ends Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown or quarterback Rex Grossman's 34-yard pass to wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad to set up a touchdown, the Bears' first team clearly showed an ability to control play in the first quarter.

"It was a good start," Grossman said.

Holdout running back Cedric Benson also had a message sent his way by current starter Thomas Jones, who gained 47 yards on 10 carries.

"The offensive line did a great job and I love this Field Turf," Jones said. "I can cut on it and move really well."

Jones broke a third-and-10 run for 24 yards behind a block from left tackle John Tait in the second quarter.

"It was designed to go outside or inside, depending on how you read it and how the blocking is," Jones said. "The corner came on a blitz and he took a bad angle so I was able to make him miss, and then I got outside."

The offense began rolling on the Bears' second drive. Grossman, who completed 5-of-12 for 77 yards, aired it out for the pylon to Muhammad, who had slipped behind Dolphins cornerback Reggie Howard inside the 1-yard line. Thomas Jones burst in from the 1 two plays later for a 7-0 Bears lead.

Grossman converted one third-and-eight with a 23-yard pass to Bernard Berrian on the drive. A pass interference penalty on third-and-four also made the score possible.

"I think we played pretty well," Grossman said. "We missed some big opportunities, I missed Bernard (Berrian) on one and we just didn't connect on a few others.

"For the most part, our offensive line did great and we moved the ball decently."

Grossman reported no problems with his surgically repaired right knee.

"The knee was fine," he said. "Our offensive line did a great job; I really didn't get touched that much."

Berrian dropped one sure big gainer on a slant, but emerged the receiving star with the starters by gaining 65 yards on three catches in the first half.

Rookie receiver Mark Bradley was the big receiving star on the night overall. He set a Hall of Fame Game record with 131 yards receiving on five catches.

"You can't complain about that," the second-round pick said. "It was entirely unexpected."

Overall, the Bears couldn't complain about first-string offensive production. The first team offense left after four drives, all in the first quarter.

"We had a couple penalties that really hurt us and we dropped a few balls," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "But overall I think our offense had a couple good drives and we're pleased with that."

The Bears' first-team defense made possible a 124-34 first-quarter edge in yardage, 6-2 advantage in first downs and no Miami third down conversions in three tries.

Urlacher's hit on Feeley for a 7-yard loss came a second after Brown got a hand on the Dolphins' quarterback to flush him out of the pocket. Feeley had to leave after the play due to a bruised rear end.

Brown left the game after that, as well, after suffering right ankle sprain.

Without Brown in the early second quarter, the first-team defense let the Dolphins drive 42 yards to Olindo Mare's 33-yard field goal to cut Miami's deficit to 7-3.

"We can always play better," Urlacher said. "We didn't have any takeaways. We pride ourselves on our takeaways and pressure on the quarterback.

"We played good against the run, did well in the eight-man front, but we have to get takeaways."

The Dolphins took the lead, 10-7, against Bears reserves when Frerotte threw a 26-yard second-quarter TD pass to Bryan Gilmore. Bears safety Bobby Gray was the apparent victim in the coverage on the play.

Miami expanded the lead to 17-7 in the third quarter against Bears backup defensive players when Gus Frerotte completed a 10-play, 74-yard drive with an 18-yard play-action toss to tight end Jason Rader.

The Bears had cut the deficit to 17-13 after Chad Hutchinson led a drive to Nick Novak's 22-yard third-quarter field goal and Kyle Orton drove the third-string offense to Doug Brien's 30-yard fourth-quarter field goal.

Hutchinson finished 10-of-18 for 124 yards.

However, strong side linebacker Jason Glenn picked Orton's pass and returned it for a 26 yards for a TD and a 24-13 Miami lead with 10:30 left in the game. Orton bounced back with a 43-yard TD pass to Ford with 7:23 to play.

"Any time you get a win, you have to be excited about that," Smith said. "I thought we did some good things early."

Late, as well.


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