CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jay Cutler created visions of the practice fields at training camp Friday when he fired an interception on Chicago's first play from scrimmage, reminiscent of so many first plays in recent days that spectators had grown to loathe at Olivet Nazarene University.
After that quick setback, however, Cutler and the first-team offense settled nicely to put together a solid, yet unspectacular, night of work during a 24-17 loss to the Panthers in the exhibition opener at Bank of America Stadium.
"It was an unfortunate start, preseason, first drive like that," Cutler said. "I thought we bounced back well, got a few first downs. (There's) a lot to work on. So we'll take a look at the film, get back to it on Sunday."
With Alshon Jeffery streaking toward the middle of the field, Cutler zipped a pass to the receiver, but threw the ball in the wrong spot, enabling Panthers cornerback Josh Norman to come away with an interception. The INT set up a touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Brandon LaFell that gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead at the 10:08 mark of the quarter after Graham Gano's extra-point kick.
"Wrong shoulder, bad ball," Cutler said of the pass. "I have to put the ball on Alshon's (Jeffery) other shoulder."
The offense played 10 total snaps, and executed nine pass plays with only one run sprinkled into the mix. Cutler's two longest passes -- to Jeffery and Michael Bush -- gained just 13 yards. He completed consecutive throws in just one drive as the unit gained three first downs.
Protection up front also appeared to be somewhat inconsistent, leading to Cutler throwing the ball away once to avoid a sack. Cutler also absorbed a sack when right tackle J'Marcus Webb missed a block on defensive end Charles Johnson.
"We did some good things out there, but obviously not enough," said center Roberto Garza. "We wanted to get in rhythm and obviously keep a longer drive alive, but we didn't do that."
Cutler still for the most part appeared to be sharp, completing 6 of 8 for 56 yards to finish with a passer rating of 54.2. Cutler also kept the Bears in advantageous situations that exploited mismatches in Carolina's coverage. Although Chicago's starters executed only one running play, resulting in a 1-yard loss for Matt Forte, Trestman called multiple runs that Cutler checked out of at the line of scrimmage.
"I think the thing that you don't see is there were a number of called runs, but he had the option to throw it," Trestman said. "Because they were in the box and doing those other things, we had great success. But the number of runs that we ran and the number that were called are two different things. That's what doesn't show up at times. When they're taking things away, we don't want to waste a play. We're gonna take the ball and throw it."
The first-team offense certainly did that, but not to the level of success it expected. Still, the outing seemed a solid start, considering the fact the Bears are running a totally new offense with several new starters up front.
What also might have gone unnoticed is the fact the first team never with relaying in plays on time, which is something that had been an issue in the past.
"Other than the first play offensively, we had smooth transitions. I thought our energy was good. We didn't have any pre-snap penalties," Trestman said. "I thought Jay was getting the ball up and out quickly, spreading it around during the minimal time he was playing."