EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Monday night's 41-13 preseason loss to the New York Giants certainly wasn't as painful as the Bears' 17-3 loss here last October.
But the losers didn't impress anyone in the national-TV audience with their play in any phase of the game.
Offense, defense and special teams all contributed to the defeat, which evened the preseason records of both teams at 1-1.
Jay Cutler was only sacked once in the first half, 8 fewer times than he was dropped in the first 30 minutes in Week 4 last season at New Meadowlands Stadium. And he did not suffer a concussion, as he did in the last meeting.
It wasn't Cutler's protection that abandoned him, but his receivers dropped a handful of passes in the first half that would've helped the offense show a little more consistency.
There were drops by tight end Kellen Davis and wide receivers Roy Williams (two) and Earl Bennett, plus a couple of others that could have been caught.
Still, Cutler managed to complete 12 of 21 for 171 yards in the first half for a passer rating of 83.6.
Pass protection was good enough that the Bears could stick with the current lineup up front, but that group will have to pass a final test Saturday in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans, when it is expected to play into the second half.
"The offensive line got better," Cutler said. "We need to get the running game a little bit more involved, but we made some strides."
The Bears' first-team offense, which played the entire first half, managed just 23 yards on 8 rushes. It had back-to-back big plays late in the first quarter, but for much of the first half it was dropped passes and red-zone failures that stood out.
On the Bears' third possession, Cutler found Devin Hester behind Giants cornerback Corey Webster for 37 yards, and then Matt Forte took a short flip from Cutler and cut back diagonally across the FieldTurf, eluding several tacklers for a 42-yard pickup.
But the next 3 plays totaled just 2 yards, and the Bears settled for Robbie Gould's 23-yard field goal.
Midway through the second quarter, Cutler drilled a 32-yard sideline rocket to Bennett. But, after reaching the Giants' 19, Davis was called for holding, and Bennett let a short dart from Cutler go through his hands.
So the Bears settled for another Gould field goal, this one from 43 yards. Late in the third quarter, Marion Barber was stopped just short of the goal line on fourth-and-1.
The Cutler-Williams collaboration appears still to be in the developmental stage.
His first drop hit him between the numbers on a third-and-10 that would have resulted in a first down. On the next Cutler's throw went through his outstretched hands, although he appeared to be hit by a defender as he dove for the ball.
Cutler, however, was clicking with Bennett (3 catches, 58 yards) and Hester (3 catches, 46 yards).
A breakdown on the Bears' normally outstanding special teams gave the Giants a 20-6 lead shortly before halftime.
Backup punter Spencer Lanning's punt was blocked by Greg Jones, and the return to the Bears' 7 set up David Carr's 5-yard TD toss to Domenik Hixon, who beat Corey Graham in the back corner of the end zone.
The kick-coverage team also allowed a 73-yard kickoff return late in the first quarter that set up the game's first TD.
Defensively the Bears missed enough tackles for an entire preseason.
There were a handful of big plays, stopping the Giants for minus yardage on 4 plays in the first half, even though some starters were out halfway through the second quarter.
Linebacker Brian Iwuh, who was subbing for injured Lance Briggs, had a solid first half, as did strong safety Chris Harris and nickel back D.J. Moore. But the defense had a greater number of bad plays.
Free safety Major Wright whiffed on running back Brandon Jacobs at the 10-yard line during the 6-foot-4, 264-pounder's 18-yard TD run. On the Giants' next possession, Ahmad Bradshaw broke three tackles on a 13-yard run.
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