In just over five quarters of preseason action, Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler has been sacked 10 times.
He's also been picked off twice, both in Saturday night's third straight preseason loss, in which the first-team offense failed to score despite playing into the third quarter.
"We have a lot to improve on," center Olin Kreutz said. "We're nowhere near where we want to be."
The first-team offense played through the first possession of the second half, and the lack of production after halftime actually got worse. On the starters' last possession, Cutler was sacked for the fourth time. He avoided another potential sack when he scrambled for a 12-yard gain in the second quarter. In the Bears' previous game, while playing just the first half, Cutler was sacked five times.
On Saturday night, Cutler did not appear comfortable in the pocket, and he might be experiencing trust issues behind an offensive line that looks to be a long way from jelling.
"We had some protection issues last game," Cutler said. "There might have still been some little effects from that, just trusting the guys up there. We had a miscue on the first play, and from that point on it was just up and down."
After one second-half possession, the Bears made the wise decision to remove Cutler from the game rather than subject him to continued punishment and lack of success, along with the rest of the offensive starters.
"We're not playing good enough football, it's as simple as that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We never got any consistency, and Jay was under too much pressure."
That's been the case the entire preseason, as a reworked offensive line struggles in protection. Cutler's night ended with a passer rating of 31.0 thanks to two interceptions. He completed 10 of 20 passes for 129 yards.
"That's not how we planned it," Smith said of the offensive ineptitude. "We had opportunities early on."
Cutler agreed that inconsistency plagued the offense, keeping them scoreless despite 166 yards of total offense in the first half.
"That's a great way to put it," he said. "It was just up and down, like a roller-coaster. We had some big plays, we had some good plays, and then we'd come back and miss something. We wanted to get rid of that coming into the third preseason game. Obviously we're still learning a little bit."
Right tackle Frank Omiyale, who was unimpressive at left guard last year, was called for two holding penalties Saturday night. Left tackle Chris Williams was responsible for three of the four sacks by Raiders defensive end Kamerion Wimbley in the second preseason game, and Saturday night he was beaten by Calais Campbell for another that led to a Cutler fumble, which the Bears recovered.
Cutler, who had a league-high 26 interceptions last year threw his first of the preseason when Rodgers-Cromartie stepped in front of Knox along the west sideline to thwart the Bears' game-opening drive.
"Offensively we talk about starting fast," Smith said. "But that first turnover really hurt us."
After three straight preseason losses, the Bears' offense has yet to get started at all.
The offense appears more than ready to start the regular season; the defense - not so much.
The Lions expended quite a bit of their resources in the offseason revamping the defensive line and with good results. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and defensive tackle Corey Williams were signed, Tackle Ndamukong Suh was taken with the second overall pick and they joined holdover end Cliff Avril to form a legitimate NFL-quality line.
And it has been strong through three exhibition games - putting steady pressure on quarterbacks and plugging running lanes.
But one unit doesn't a complete defense make. And the Lions' back seven remains as wobbly and vulnerable as ever. Teams are finding it very easy to neutralize the aggression of the front four with screen passes and short routes and pick apart the linebackers and defensive backs.
Injuries aren't helping. Starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy, after missing most of training camp with a back injury, pulled a groin muscle on the first play of the third exhibition game Saturday against Cleveland.
In the first exhibition game, backup middle linebacker Jordon Dizon was lost for the season with a knee injury.
With the long-term status of Levy unknown at this point, the Lions are down to special teams ace Vinny Ciurciu as their starting middle linebacker, and another special teams player Isaiah Ekejiuba as his backup.
The only known quantity at linebacker is aging weak-side ‘backer Julian Peterson (32). Zach Follett, who at this time last season was trying to fight his way off the practice squad, is a first-year starter on the strong side.
The backups there are veterans Landon Johnson and Ashlee Palmer.
In the secondary, the Lions are holding their breath that safety Louis Delmas' groin holds up. He injured it in June and played for the first time on Saturday. He was on the field for 21 plays and said he felt no ill-effects.
The Lions would not be able to overcome losing Delmas for an extended length of time. The other starting safety, C.C. Brown, was out Saturday with a forearm injury. He is expected to be ready to start the regular season.
But after those two, the Lions are using two rookies - undrafted Randy Phillips, who has been a pleasant surprise, and third-round pick Amari Spievey, who was converted from cornerback last week.
The cornerback situation was expected to be better with the addition of Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade - and it would be if those guys could ever get on the field together. Wade has been out for two weeks with a broken finger.
He will be ready to play in the opener.
Still, the back seven is going to put a lot of pressure on the defensive linemen. For this defense to be even adequate, the front four has to great every game.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
While the Packers' passing game has been off-the-charts healthy this preseason, the offense has a major flaw to remedy before the start of the season.
"The ball's been on the ground a little bit too much," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin lamented. "We haven't had a game yet where we haven't had a giveaway. That's a concern."
Another lights-out performance by Aaron Rodgers and his receiving corps in the Packers' 59-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 26 was blemished by fumbles from running backs Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson.
"I definitely think so," Rodgers responded, when asked afterward whether he has concerns about the ball-handling issues that have cropped up in the exhibition games. "Those guys got a tongue lashing at halftime. It's uncharacteristic for both of those guys."
Thanks to Rodgers, the Packers overcame those ills to build a 28-17 halftime lead before their starters departed. Rodgers completed 21 of 29 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Through three games, Rodgers is 41-of-53 (77.4 percent) for 470 yards and league highs of six touchdowns and a 141.2 passer rating without an interception.
"When we get into a rhythm like we have this preseason on offense, we're going to be tough to stop," Rodgers said. "It's fun."
Conversely, Grant has two fumbles in three games, though his miscue against the Colts was recovered by center Scott Wells.
Grant incidentally will enter the regular season with a career-high streak of 291 carries without a fumble — the longest active streak among NFL backs.
His only fumble in 2009 came on a pass play in a Week 2 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Grant's last fumble by rush was Dec. 28, 2008, against the Detroit Lions.
Head coach Mike McCarthy, who has little tolerance for fumbles, took Grant and Jackson out of the game after their first-half blunders last week. Jackson turned the ball over inside the Colts' 10-yard line.
"We have to eliminate that from our play," McCarthy said. "It's kind of gone on a little too much. We've talked about it in practices and so far in the preseason. We train it every day, and we need to get rid of that."
Jackson was beside himself for a while following his turnover. He didn't have a lost fumble his first three years in the league.
"All I feel like is it's a steppingstone. It's just getting me better, hopefully," Jackson said. "You've got to learn through trial and error. But, after that, you'll probably never see that again."
The Packers will need Grant and Jackson to be sure-handed with the football because they could be the only two halfbacks on the 53-man roster at the start of the season.
Injuries have diminished the chances for others to make the team, particularly rookie James Starks.
The sixth-round draft pick out of Buffalo has been out since the opening of training camp because of a pulled hamstring. Starks could wind up on injured reserve.
Undrafted rookie Quinn Porter, an early standout in camp, suffered ankle and knee injuries the last two games, dimming his prospects for surviving the final roster cut.
Fullback John Kuhn has the flexibility to play halfback, so the Packers can afford to stick with Grant and Jackson and free up a roster spot at another position.