The Bears, the only team not to score in Week 1 of the preseason, dominated New England’s first-team defense Thursday night, a 23-22 Patriots win.
Behind Cutler’s arm (8-of-12, 83 yards), Jeffery’s hands (two receptions, 41 yards) and Langford’s legs (eight rushes for 55 yards, one touchdown), Chicago’s well-balanced offensive attack ate up the clock and kept New England on its heels.
This is how an NFL offense is supposed to look. And to play so well (keeping in mind it’s only the preseason) against the league’s model franchise was even sweeter.
QB depth chart: Cutler’s throws were in rhythm. Some of the credit goes to the offensive line, but even on the rare occasions when the pass protection broke down, Cutler used his underrated elusiveness to avoid serious danger. The only thing missing from Cutler’s performance was a touchdown pass. The sharp play did not continue with second-team quarterback Brian Hoyer, who tossed an interception immediately after he entered the game. In the fourth quarter, Hoyer connected on big plays to Rob Housler and Joshua Bellamy, but the early pick killed momentum. Connor Show fired a last-second touchdown pass in his bid to be the No. 3 QB.
Maybe that player could start: Veteran Tony Moeaki filled in admirably for Zach Miller (concussion) before he left the game. Moeaki (four receptions, 28 yards) is an experienced Plan B at tight end, who made 29 starts for Kansas City in 2010 and 2012. Moeaki played well at the team's training camp in Bourbonnais, Illinois, but Thursday night’s performance is further proof that (health permitting) he can pick up some of the slack if Miller is sidetracked in the regular season.
Who got hurt? Cornerback Jacoby Glenn, who started in place of Kyle Fuller, is being evaluated for a concussion. Return man/receiver Deonte Thompson limped off the field prior to the two-minute warning. Among those missing the game were wide receiver Eddie Royal (concussion), linebacker Danny Trevathan (knee), Fuller (knee) and Miller.
A surprise player who impressed: Will Sutton. A former 2014 third-round pick, Sutton had a terrific tackle-for-loss to cap off a goal-line stand. The top four on the defensive line -- Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Mitch Unrein and Jonathan Bullard -- is set, but Sutton is pushing hard for a spot on the 53-man roster. Sutton is a tad undersized, but he plays with enthusiasm.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Bears looked : Prepared. The three joint practices in New England clearly paid off. The Bears played with confidence much of the first half, likely because they spent the week battling the best organization in the NFL. Even when it looked as if the defense was in trouble, veteran cornerback Tracy Porter pulled off the rare forced fumble/fumble recovery combo near the goal line. The 23-22 final score is meaningless. When it mattered, the Bears' first units showed up.
One reason to be concerned: Leonard Floyd. New England blockers manhandled the rookie on consecutive plays in the second quarter. Floyd just isn’t big or strong enough to lock up with offensive linemen. The ninth overall pick has to use his reach and speed to get off those blocks. We didn’t see that before halftime. Floyd later made an athletic play in coverage (third quarter), and got a piece of the quarterback on a stunt. So Floyd did have some highlights. But it is worth monitoring how Floyd holds up when the action is straight at him. That seems to be a weakness.
Larsen settling in: After surrendering seven sacks against Denver, the Bears’ pass protection held up at Gillette Stadium. Some of the improvement is probably due to the increased comfort level of Ted Larsen (the undisputed fight king of Bourbonnais) at center in the wake of Hroniss Grasu’s season-ending torn ACL. Offensive line play is all about continuity. Larsen is new to the team, and he missed a portion of the offseason program due to injury. So the Bears were playing catch up. Of course, the line is still thin. The Bears cannot afford to suffer another serious health setback up front.
Saturday night lights: Following an off day on Friday, the Bears will hold a nighttime practice at Warren High School in Gurnee. Reservations for the free event currently are full. Several years ago, the Bears worked out at Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School when the lights went out at Olivet Nazarene.