The Bears weren't as impressive offensively in Thursday night's second exhibition as they were in the previous week's victory.
But the starters did enough good things in limited playing time to take some positives out of the generally unimpressive 20-19 victory over the 1-1 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bears improved their preseason record to 2-0.
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It took a while for the Bears to get rolling, and it required a little help from the Jaguars' defense. But most of the weapons the Bears will depend upon in the regular season made contributions, even though they were on the field for only 13 plays.
On the first play of the second quarter, on a third-and-10 from the Bears' 15-yard line, quarterback Jay Cutler found a wide-open Martellus Bennett in the middle of the defense for a 25-yard pickup.
After a Jacksonville penalty (one of 14 called on them in a game that had 21 in all) gave the Bears a first down when it appeared they would have to punt, Cutler connected with Alshon Jeffery for 17 yards. Matt Forte then picked up 13 yards after catching a short pass and 8 more two plays later before Brandon Marshall caught a 4-yard TD under the goal posts.
"I think the offensive line is playing at a really high level," said Cutler, who was not sacked. "We want to get the running game (going) a little bit better than we did early on. That was tough. But we bounced back, converted some third downs. The offensive line gave me a lot of time. It wasn't our cleanest drive but we got the job done."
Cutler had an abundance of time to scan the field before he went to Marshall with 10:46 left in the first half.
"I came back to B (Marshall) and just had to wait for him to find an opening," Cutler said. "I guess with that offensive line, I think anybody could have stood back there."
That ended the evening for most of the starters. Cutler finished with a 138.4 passer rating, completing 7 of 9 passes for 75 yards. The offensive line allowed just 1 sack on 34 pass plays.
The offense ran just five plays in the first quarter, accumulating a total of only 8 yards. Forte finished his day with minus-2 rushing yards on 4 attempts, as the Bears failed to improve upon a ground game that was a disappointment in the opener, generating just 92 yards on 32 attempts for a 2.9-yard average. Thursday was more of the same -- 79 yards on 26 rushes for a 3.0-yard average.
"We haven't been productive," Bears coach Marc Trestman said about the plodding ground game. "We're working hard on it every day, but we haven't shown that productivity."
Jimmy Clausen followed Cutler under center, flip-flopping the order that he and Jordan Palmer played in a week earlier.
With the first-team offensive line remaining in the game against the Jaguars' first-team D-line, the run game finally showed signs of life. Shaun Draughn, competing for a roster spot behind Forte, carried three times for 33 yards.
But Clausen, who entered midway through the second quarter and played through the third, did not play as well as he had in Week One, when he posted a 134.6 passer rating. He was intercepted early in the third quarter and sacked once. Although he completed 11 of 15 passes, Clausen finished with a 61.5 passer rating before giving way to Palmer.
Palmer completed 6 of 9 passes for 73 yards and a passer rating of 91.4, and he directed the game-winning drive the that ended with 50 seconds remaining. He completed 5 of 7 passes on that drive for 58 yards.
Next Friday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle the offense will face a tougher test against the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks. But the Bears will do more game-planning for the final tuneup with starters expected to play into the second half, since they won't see much action in the final preseason game.
"We're just going to get into game-week scenarios and game plan probably a little bit," Cutler said. "Just start to get the flow of what it's going to be like during the season. We'll be in the noise there, so that'll be a good change-up for us."
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