The Bears' 24-14 preseason-ending victory over the Cleveland Browns was the final opportunity for backups to solidify their place on the depth chart and players on the bubble to make their case for one of the coveted 53 spots on the final roster.
If the competition between Kahlil Bell and Chester Taylor for the No. 3 running back job behind Matt Forte and Marion Barber was based on Thursday night, the nod has to go to Bell, who probably had the job won already, based on his earlier play.
Taylor got the start, playing behind the No. 1 offensive line minus center Roberto Garza, who was replaced by Chris Spencer to get him some work with the first unit. Taylor managed 27 yards on 10 carries with a long run of 9 yards.
Bell, playing behind the second-team offensive line picked up 26 yards on 8 carries before leaving the game with a slight limp after suffering a right-ankle injury.
"Given the opportunities that I was given, I tried to take advantage of them, and I feel good about where I stand at the moment," Bell said. "I don't worry about all that other stuff, and whatever comes my way comes my way."
Considering Barber did not dress for the game because of a calf injury, it's possible the Bears could keep four running backs, depending on the seriousness of Bell's injury.
Quarterback Jay Cutler did not play, which gave Caleb Hanie an opportunity in the first quarter with some starters and another chance for redemption. In the third preseason game, Hanie threw an ill-advised pass in the red zone that was intercepted and returned 90 yards for a TD.
"You can't throw the ball directly to him," coach Lovie Smith said after that game.
In training camp, Hanie was benched for a Monday practice after playing poorly in the preseason opener. He knew what he needed to show offensive coordinator Mike Martz: a better ability to run the offense.
Hanie did that Thursday night with his best performance of the preseason. Playing just the first two possessions, he directed the offense to scores on both. A 16-play drive to open the game ended in a 22-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
Hanie threaded a 14-yard completion in traffic to Johnny Knox and then touched in a 22-yard sideline route to Dane Sanzenbacher to set up the score.
On the next possession, Hanie's perfectly placed toss dropped into the hands of the double-covered Knox in the back of the south end zone for a 19-yard TD.
"It's just good to have a strong game in the last one and go into the regular season on a positive note," said Hanie, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 83 yards and a passer rating of 128.3. "Johnny made a great catch (on the TD); we had a really tight window in the corner of the end zone."
"Caleb didn't play as well as he needed to last week," Smith said. "But we like what he was able to do (Thursday) night. That was a perfect throw down there in the end zone."
Defensively, Nick Reed made his case for a roster spot with an inspired performance. In the first quarter alone, the 6-foot-1, 248-pound, second-year defensive end out of Oregon tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage and had 2 tackles.
Early in the second quarter he narrowly missed a sack on quarterback Seneca Wallace and then pressured Wallace into an incompletion on the next snap.
Late in the third quarter, with the Browns facing a fourth-and-goal from the Bears' 1-yard line, Reed showed his speed and quickness when he came from his right end spot and dragged down Owen Marecic for a 1-yard loss on a play that was headed toward the other side of the field -- and the end zone.
Late in the fourth quarter he had 1 of the Bears' 4 sacks.
"He has stood out quite a bit," Smith said. "He's hard to block 1-on-1."
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