What We Learned Saturday

If the third preseason game is the only one that matters for the starters, then the Bears should be very happy with their performance against the 49ers. The offense moved the ball at will in the first half, and the defense forced four punts. The Midway Monsters upped their preseason mark to 3-0 on Saturday, and BearReport.com came away from Soldier Field with five important observations.

1. It's officially time to worry about Benson and the ground game
Cedric Benson averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in the first two preseason games, and then his 33 yards on 19 carries Saturday night came out to a paltry 1.7 yards a crack. Considering he is going to be a featured back for the first time in his NFL career after the departure of Thomas Jones, Benson has done very little to show during the exhibition slate that he can shoulder the load for 20-25 carries per game. And while he's caught everything out of the backfield that has been thrown to him so far, he hasn't been able to make anything happen as a receiver either.

In Benson's defense, he still hasn't been given a chance to run behind his entire starting offensive line because left tackle John Tait missed the first two games and left guard Ruben Brown was in street clothes come Game 3.

2. Archuleta is going to struggle in coverage down the field
Alex Smith really only made one big play in the passing game for the 49ers, but it was at Adam Archuleta's expense. Trying to cover crazy-athletic tight end Vernon Davis on a flag route toward the left sideline, Smith was able to feather a soft throw over the head of Archuleta after Davis got some separation for a 26-yard gain on 3rd-and-5. Archuleta was credited with three solo tackles on the evening and appears to be meshing with veteran Mike Brown quite well, but it's not hard to see why he struggled so mightily in Washington last season after signing the richest contract in NFL history for a safety.

Brown is moving back to free safety after a three-year stint at strong safety, yet he is a step slower these days and could also leave the Bears susceptible to big-gainers against the pass.

3. Peterson has what it takes to be a contributor on offense
While Benson has struggled to prove during the preseason that he's ready to be the primary ball-carrier, Adrian Peterson ran the rock pretty well against San Francisco when given the opportunity. Peterson compiled 27 yards on 6 carries and also caught a pass out of the backfield, so perhaps he is capable of handling secondary duties as a runner in addition to his wild-man work on special teams. Third-string rookie Garrett Wolfe has had some flashes and certainly could be a difference-maker eventually, but he's having trouble eluding NFL defenders and making them miss as easily as he did in the college game.

 RB Adrian Peterson (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Not only does Peterson have more shiftiness than Benson in the open field, but he's also shown that he can get the job done near the goal line by scoring on a 1-yard plunge against the Colts and a 3-yarder against the 49ers in consecutive weeks.

4. Briggs didn't forget how to tackle during his holdout
Lance Briggs really only does one thing exceptionally well – he's a great open-field tackler – but does it as well as any linebacker in the league. Briggs was credited with five solo stops on Saturday night to lead the team, and a few of them were jarring hits that stopped some 49ers dead in their tracks. While second-year pro Jamar Williams has had an excellent preseason and is going to a solid LB one of these days, he won't see much action on the weak side any time soon.

Briggs was probably not in the best shape of his career when he reported to training camp after that ugly holdout, but he's still a wonderful player and a good bet to lead the team in tackles once again.

5. Grossman is still the best QB on the roster despite his flaws
If you eliminate the fumbled snap and the interception returned for a touchdown, Rex Grossman was on top of his game Saturday night against a supposedly-much-improved San Francisco defense. The trouble is, you can't just eliminate those eye-opening gaffes because those are the things that can turn sure victories into puzzling defeats in a hurry. Grossman threw the ball with confidence and poise most of the evening, but it looks as if he's still going to make a handful of mistakes every game that will leave Bears fans scratching their heads and somewhat uncomfortable going forward.

And even though backup Brian Griese continues to play well in the preseason despite his wretched performance in Bourbonnais, Grossman would have to absolutely implode during the regular season before head coach Lovie Smith went to his bullpen in crunch time.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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