Fourth Quarter Update: Bears 27, Broncos 17
Trying desperately to keep his spot on the 53-man roster despite the fact that he's obviously the No. 4 running back on the depth chart, Adrian Peterson put together a couple of nice runs on a 79-scoring drive and finished it off with a 12-yard blast up the middle. Caleb Hanie got the offense going when he connected with Johnny Knox, who is also fighting for a job, deep down the right sideline on a fade route for 43 yards. Third-team quarterback Brett Basanez only got to throw a few passes, but he did hit a beauty of a 26-yarder to Michael Gaines down the middle of the field.
The secondary still has some issues to work out with so many players missing in action due to various injuries. Since the Bears have to cut down to 75 players before Thursday's preseason finale, converted corner Rudy Burgess could be one of the unfortunate ones to get called into coach Lovie Smith's office. A pure athlete on the offensive side of the ball in college, Burgess is having a hard time in coverage and doesn't have very good technique, which is why he gave up a 54-yard completion from Tom Brandstater to Kenny KcKinley that eventually led to a short touchdown run by Darius Walker.
Nevertheless, a late field goal by Robbie Gould pushed the Chicago lead to 27-17 and helped move the Bears to 2-1 on the preseason.
Third Quarter Update: Bears 17, Broncos 10
Even though he's made himself into somewhat of a preseason legend in the Windy City, Hanie wasn't able to put much together once he came into the game and completed just 3 of 6 passes for only 5 yards in the quarter. With a short field after a gift interception falling into the hands of rookie Marcus Freeman, Hanie and the offense went three-and-out again before calling on Brad Maynard to punt the ball away for the seventh time on the evening.
The defense started to give up some yardage on the ground, including 21 yards to Correll Buckhalter and 17 yards to Peyton Hillis on consecutive plays. Hillis eventually plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out, although the Broncos' drive was helped substantially by a ridiculous roughing-the-passer call on Alex Brown coming hard from his right defensive end position. Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have both been incredibly active, crashing the line of scrimmage in aggressive fashion on most every snap and wreaking serious havoc on the Denver zone-blocking scheme.
It's going to be second and third teamers the rest of the way in Rocky Mountain country, with the Bears holding on to a 17-10 lead.
Second Quarter Update: Bears 17, Broncos 3
Hester broke open the contest in the second quarter, returning a punt 54 yards all the way down to the Denver 4-yard line and setting up a 1-yard scoring plunge from Matt Forte. And then just before halftime, Jay Cutler put together an awfully impressive 98-yard drive with precision passing, getting another TD from Forte on a 6-yard pitch and catch. After 30 minutes of action at Invesco Field, Cutler is showing new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels just what he's missing at the game's most important position: 15 of 21, 144 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions.
For the second straight week, the Monsters of the Midway look quite monstrous on defense and aren't giving Kyle Orton and Co. much to work with down the field. Orton has completed 12 of 16 passes, but he's only averaging 6.0 yards per attempt and hasn't so much as challenged the secondary with a deeper throw at this point. The ground game has also been shut down, with the Bears surrendering only 9 yards on seven carries thus far.
With two quarters in the books, coach Lovie Smith has to be very pleased with a 17-3 lead on the road and Cutler looking like a Pro Bowler once again.
First Quarter Update: Bears 3, Broncos 3
After a slow start and poor field position because of a foolish fair catch from Devin Hester, Cutler did put together a beauty of a drive toward the end of the first frame. The pretty highlight was a 3rd-and-1 play-action bootleg to a wide-open Desmond Clark over the middle, good for 25 yards and a fresh set of downs. Robbie Gould kicked a 40-yard field goal to get the Bears on the scoreboard for the first time.
On the other side of the football, the defense didn't get much help from their offensive teammates and were forced to take the field inside their own 50-yard line on one drive, which led to a 31-yard chip shot from Matt Prater. Kyle Orton looks like the same Kyle Orton, as even the completions he does make aren't truly on the money and don't give his receivers much of an opportunity to make plays after the catch. The Broncos were also pretty sloppy in the first half, committing a few penalties and repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot.
After one quarter of action, it's 3-3 at a boisterous Invesco Field, where the crowd is all over Cutler every time he buttons up his chinstrap.
Pregame Notes: Cutler Back at Mile High
In the most eagerly anticipated exhibition contest the NFL has seen this summer, Cutler returns to Denver to take on the Broncos, the team he said he couldn't be a part of anymore after rookie Josh McDaniels replaced veteran Mike Shanahan as coach. Cutler is now under center for the team he grew up cheering for as a kid in small-town Indiana, the Bears, and while the affair will have no effect on the standings, Cutler and McDaniels would both like to get the better of one another. The signal caller wants to have a big night throwing the ball and show the first-year coach just what he's missing at the game's most important position, while McDaniels is hoping his newly-instituted 3-4 defense can keep No. 6 from lighting up the scoreboard.
On the other side of the football, although it's not being hyped nearly as much, former Bears passer Kyle Orton faces his former employer for the first time, too. After a terrible debut as a Bronco two weeks ago at San Francisco, Orton performed pretty well last week at Seattle and helped quiet the vocal majority that wishes he were still suiting up in the Windy City. While McDaniels has backed Orton every step of the way and claims he'll be the starter come Week 1, Orton must have blown a sigh of relief after Chris Simms came up lame against the Seahawks.
The third preseason game is the best indication of what we'll see once the results start to matter, so sit back, relax and let Bear Report tell you what's really going on in Rocky Mountain country from inside the press box.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
JC's Gameday Blog: Bears vs. Broncos
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