Monday night, they didn't.
That's probably the most encouraging thing I can say about the Bears loss Monday night at New Meadowlands Stadium. This is not meant as (a total) back-handed compliment. In all sincerity, the Bears' first-team offensive line rebounded nicely from last week's four-sack outing and probably isn't in danger of the kind of shakeup a poor performance in this game could have generated.
Tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi were each called for a false start, but I thought Carimi, especially, held his own against Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. The first-team offensive line played into the third quarter but allowed only one sack. Even that instance seemed more the fault of Cutler, who escaped the pocket but then slid to the ground rather than throw the ball away.
Stranger things have happened, but the Bears would be justified in keeping this offensive line together for at least another week. On a night when many people will overreact to a mostly meaningless preseason score, I also think:
1. Receiver Roy Williams needs to get his act together. His drop of Cutler's first third-down pass of the night, inexplicably undetected until Giants coach Tom Coughlin challenged it, was indicative of the performances he's put forth recently in practice. His second third-down opportunity was more difficult but still could have been caught.
Regardless, how much could Cutler possibly trust Williams at this point? And will the Bears keep him in the starting lineup or at least give Earl Bennett more repetitions? There is no doubt about Bennett's connection with Cutler. He targeted Bennett five times, connecting for three catches and 58 yards.
2. BREAKING: Tailback Matt Forte is fast. Forte put his speed on display during the first-quarter screen pass he took across the field and down the left sideline for 42 yards. That's the kind of (dare I say) Marshall Faulk-like open-field running he brings to the Mike Martz offense.
3. Goal-to-go woes. We've chronicled the Bears' ineffectiveness in goal-to-goal situations over the past few years, and it's worth noting two more failures Monday.
In the first quarter, Forte managed 2 yards on first-and-goal at the 7. The Bears wound up throwing on second and third downs before settling for a 23-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
The Bears signed free agent Marion Barber for these kinds of situations, but in the third quarter, Barber failed on three consecutive runs to push the ball into the end zone. The last attempt was on fourth down at the 1-yard line. Barber still runs hard, but nothing requires more power than a goal-line play.
4. A punting competition? The Bears signed free agent Adam Podlesh to a five-year contract worth $10 million, and almost half of that total is scheduled to be paid out in the next 12 months. You don't commit that kind of money to a punter who isn't a lock to make the team, so it was surprising to hear ESPN announcers describe Podlesh's punting battle with Spencer Lanning based on discussions with Bears coaches.
Lanning has had a nice summer, and I wouldn't blame a blocked second-quarter punt on him. But it would be a stunner if Podlesh weren't the Bears' punter to start the season.
5. Devin Hester's night. It was an interesting one, to say the least. He broke open down the right sideline in the first quarter for a 37-yard reception, but it could have gone for a touchdown if Cutler had got it out in front of him a little more. Later on the drive, however, Hester slipped near the goal line and couldn't reach a pass that otherwise would have gone for a score. He finished with three receptions for 46 yards.
6. Giving up 41 points: I know the final score was ugly, but the Bears defense that will spend regular-season games on the field didn't provide too many causes for alarm as far as I was concerned. The Giants offense went three-and-out on its first two possessions. Linebacker Lance Briggs didn't play and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher left after four series. Not much to see here.