OAKLAND, Calif. -- Instead of leaning on the basic plays utilized over the first two preseason games, the Chicago Bears dug deeper into the playbook Friday night to execute “more of our packages,” tight end Martellus Bennett said.
That resulted in Chicago’s first-team offense putting up 27 points on the Oakland Raiders over two quarters, while scoring on five of six first-half drives. The showing provided “signals of the kind of team we can be,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said after the 34-26 win, “but we’re certainly not going to get ahead of ourselves, either.”
Jay Cutler spoke a similar message.
“It is the preseason,” he cautioned. “You can’t get caught up in that. We start out the season 0-0 like everybody else, and we’ve got to get back to work. I wouldn’t get too high on this game. Obviously, we made some mistakes. We need to go back and look at them. But it’s a good barometer of where we’re at and where we can go.”
In hitting on 12 of 21 passes for 142 yards and a 32-yard touchdown to Matt Forte on the way to generating a passer rating of 93.8, Cutler helped the Bears convert three of six third downs. Cutler converted the first third down on a slant to Alshon Jeffery that he turned into a 22-yard gain on a nifty spin toward the sideline. Cutler hit Jeffery again two drives later to convert a third down for a 12-yard gain. The quarterback scrambled up the middle for a 13-yard gain to convert third down No. 3 for the team.
The week before, Cutler had drawn criticism for throwing each of his five passes to Brandon Marshall, leading many to ponder whether he’d become too reliant on the receiver. But in two quarters against the Raiders, Cutler targeted seven different receivers and completed passes to five of them.
“We’re gonna throw it to the open guy,” Cutler said, “[whether] it’s Alshon, B [Marshall], if it’s Marty [Bennett] -- whoever it is. That’s how we’re gonna operate.”
The offensive line -- featuring rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills on the right side -- bolstered Cutler’s performance by holding its own in pass protection, in addition to paving the way for Matt Forte to run roughshod over the Raiders for 76 yards on six attempts.
“It seemed that Jay kind of finished the first half clean in terms of not getting sacked, not taking any hits,” Trestman said. “It was encouraging. There were a lot of things there, offensively.”
They weren’t all positive, either.
Trestman pointed to the Bears stopping “ourselves in many cases.” During the opening drive, Marshall dropped a third-down pass that forced the team to settle for a Robbie Gould field goal. The Bears settled for three more points when Cutler received a bad shotgun snap on third down that led to just a 2-yard gain.
Targeted four times in the first half, Marshall dropped two passes, while tight end Fendi Onobun dropped what appeared to be a sure touchdown on a throw that was catchable but fell a little short. Bennett also dropped two passes.
“We had at least three drops in the first half, maybe six depending on how you looked at them,” Trestman said.
Added Bennett: “I thought it was a good day for the offense, but we still have a lot of work to do.”