The Bears' final preseason game wasn't much more encouraging than their blowout loss in Seattle a week earlier.
But, with 29 starters and top backups sitting out, the 33-13 loss to the Browns (1-3) in Cleveland on Thursday night was important only to the 22 players who won't be Bears anymore after final cuts are made by 3 p.m. Saturday.
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Rookie quarterback David Fales started and played the entire game. After a sketchy performance, it will be interesting to see if the Bears (2-2) include him on the 53-man roster. If they cut him, it will expose the sixth-round pick from San Jose State to the rest of the league. If he clears waivers, the Bears can add Fales to their 10-man practice squad and begin developing him for the future.
Fales' favorite target Thursday night was Josh Bellamy, who made a strong bid for a backup wide receiver spot with 4 catches for 78 yards -- all in just the first 22 minutes of the game, despite going against many of the Browns' first-team players.
"Josh Bellamy got to make a couple of plays," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "(David) Fales made some plays in the pocket."
Even more spectacular were two plays by veteran Santonio Holmes. He has been a Bear for just 13 days, but Holmes gave his team a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, flashing the talent that made him one of the NFL's better wide receivers in 2009 and the Super Bowl MVP that season.
Holmes caught a quick slant-in from Fales and then put a slick spin move on the Browns' first-round draft choice, cornerback Justin Gilbert to complete a 32-yard TD.
Seconds later Holmes showed the burst that has been missing from the Bears' punt-return game. After making the first tackler miss, Holmes bolted 30 yards up the middle to set up Robbie Gould's 23-yard field goal that gave the Bears a 13-7 lead.
"You see the explosion in him," Trestman said. "He caught a short throw, turned and ran, separated from the defense. That's a good sign."
The Bears' second-team defense started off the same way the first team did last week in Seattle, allowing a 13-play, 85-yard TD drive that featured loose coverage that allowed the Browns' No. 1 quarterback Brian Hoyer to complete 4 straight passes underneath the coverage, setting up Ben Tate's 1-yard TD run.
For the second straight week, the Bears' defense struggled to contain a mobile quarterback -- but not until late in the first quarter, when rookie Johnny Manziel entered.
Manziel's accuracy was inconsistent, but the excitement level he brought was constant, frequently avoiding the rush or buying time with planned rollouts and displaying his uncanny ability to make plays on the run. Johnny Football zigzagged all over the pocket before connecting with Nate Burleson for 27 yards, setting up Cleveland's second TD.
On the Browns' next possession, Manziel had runs of 22 and 8 yards to set up the field goal that gave Cleveland a 17-13 lead at the half.
The only Bear defender who didn't have a problem corralling Manziel was defensive end David Bass, who was playing for a backup spot on the depth chart.
Midway through the second quarter, Bass sacked Manziel and stripped the ball from the first-round pick, but the Browns recovered. Late in the second quarter, Bass sacked Manziel again after Austen Lane, also fighting for a roster spot, got initial pressure off the opposite edge. But that play was nullified by a holding call on cornerback Marcus Trice.
Later Bass, who had 6 solo tackles, pressured Manziel into a hurried incompletion.
Manziel completed just 6 of 17 passes for 83 yards, 1 TD and a 71.4 passer rating, but he picked up 55 yards on 4 runs.
For the Bears, Fales completed 13 of 24 passes for 146 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception and a passer rating of 69.1.
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