At this stage, few are clamoring for Bears' season to start

John Fox coached his first game as Bears coach, but there isn't a high level of expectation that this season will offer much to cheer about. Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- If you're a $9.50 half-empty cup of beer type of Bears fan, you probably grunted your way through the first half of the team's preseason opener Thursday night.

The Miami Dolphins' opening 85-yard touchdown drive, Jay Cutler's first three-and-out, near-interception of the season, a nice drive ending in a field goal, a failure to get in a final play of the half from Miami’s 11-yard line.

So much at which to roll your eyes.

If you're a "Hey, $9.50 isn't that much to spend on a 20-ounce cup of Miller Lite" type of Bears fan, then you're assuaged by the exploits of a few individual players in Chicago's 27-10 victory.

Either way, you're probably not expecting much out of this team. Chicago is united in its Bears apathy.

The Bears made their Soldier Field debut for 2015. For the first time in years, at least since that fateful Cutler trade, few people are counting down until the season begins.

One national publication picked the Bears to go 3-13, though that's just silly. This is a seven-win team as sure the Bears charge $9.25 for a "Ditka Dog."

For the first time since 2002, the Bears began a season -- OK preseason -- without Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, two of the franchise's best defensive players of the last decade-plus, and certainly in Tillman's case, ever.

Not that they helped much in the Marc Trestman hiccup of an era that bottomed out in last year's 5-11 debacle. Transitions are rarely easy, but at least no one is being fooled.

There are fewer familiar names on the roster than at any time in recent memories. And many of those names Bears fans do know, they wish they didn't.

Despite the addition of John Fox and the subtraction of Trestman, there hasn't been such little excitement over the start of a Bears season in the Cutler era. Picking the Bears to win eight games seems like ignorant homerism.

Crowds at Bourbonnais training camp have been weak, so I hear, though to be fair, the crowd at Soldier Field was decent considering the situation. As usual, it was full of children and season-ticket holders' third-favorite cousins.

No one should seriously make any judgments about a veritable scrimmage, but I don't have to tell you that. If you're reading a column about a preseason game, you know how this works.

But this was a chance for fans to start complaining. It's going to be a long season, better get used to griping.

Cutler, perhaps beginning his last season of a disappointing tenure, played two series and came out in one piece, so that's good. He nearly broke his training camp interception-free streak on the first series, trying to hit Jacquizz Rodgers over the middle on third-and-8. He got blasted once in the second series when left defensive end Cameron Wake beat right tackle Jordan Mills for an apparent sack, but dueling penalties by both teams erased the play. On his do-over down, Cutler made his best throw of the night, a 17-yard slant to Martellus Bennett.

Cutler hit Eddie Royal for 13 yards later in the series, but it came on third-and-15. A Will Montgomery -- he's the center -- false start on the next play made it fourth-and-7 and Robbie Gould kicked a field goal to end a 12-play, 61-yard drive.

Cutler didn't have Matt Forte or Alshon Jeffery, who was seen wearing a walking boot thanks to a calf strain. Fox termed it a day-to-day injury, but presumably he'll be back before rookie receiver Kevin White recovers from his lingering shin injury.

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase didn't exactly crack open the playbook, so there's no sense judging Cutler, good or bad, based on a couple of series.

Once the season begins at noon Sunday, Sept. 13 at Soldier Field, you can judge away. No one gets judged more than Cutler. There should be a "Law & Order: Cutler Victims Unit" spin-off.

I'm on record saying I expect Cutler to play "decent" to "pretty OK" this season. I don't exactly have a bandwagon, but I would consider driving a Cutler brand Divvy bike with a basket attached.

We know essentially what we have with Cutler, but the defense is a mystery. After two abysmal seasons, coordinator Vic Fangio has implemented a 3-4 defense, and has the task of mixing in 4-3 veterans and new players. This probably will lead to some awkwardness, but hey, it can't be worse than the last two seasons.

In its Soldier Field debut, the first-string defense had an inauspicious start, letting Miami's first-team offense march all over it with an opening 14-play drive that chewed up eight minutes of clock.

Bears fans were re-introduced to Shea McClellin, trying to reinvent himself as a middle linebacker. They got to see Jared Allen play outside linebacker.

"It's cool for me this year because preseason actually has a purpose and a function, because it's really time I get to hone a new craft," Allen said. "It's like my younger days, I'm really trying to use it to polish and understand."

Allen sniffed out a screen play to Rishard Matthews during the Dolphins' first drive, but he couldn't catch it. Miami scored its only touchdown three plays later.

"I should have had it actually," Allen said. "I need to hit the JUGS (machine) with my one-handers."

Jimmy Clausen, who usurped Cutler for one start last season, led the Bears to four more scoring drives, going 17-for-27 for 151 yards. You don't quite prove anything in a game like this, but Clausen looked serviceable to professional, which is all you can ask for.

"Just trying to spread the ball around to different guys," Clausen said. "In this offense, anybody can get the ball at any time. I thought they did a great time making plays when plays were there."

Backup outside linebacker Sam Acho sacked McLeod Bethel-Thompson, whom I assure you is a real person not a simulated name for a Maryland high school lacrosse player, for a five-yard loss on third-and-8 deep in Bears territory in the second quarter. Acho also had an interception in the fourth quarter that led to a Bears field goal.

"In all reality, those were two solid plays," Acho said. "But personally, as a player, I've got to do a better job getting pressure on the quarterback. I think that people get lost in statistics sometimes. You see someone who had a sack and think it's great, but there's probably 20 better plays he could have gotten better pressure on the quarterback."

Yeah, Acho is a good talker. I'll visit with him again later.

Sherrick McManis, a Bears veteran trying to squeeze onto the roster, had a nice strip sack and fumble recovery in the third quarter. Second-year defensive end Will Sutton, moved out from the tackle spot in the new Bears defense, got high marks from those who paid attention.

Undrafted linebacker John Timu had an interception late in the third quarter that led to a TD, Ka'Deem Carey, um, carry.

With Shane Carden in at quarterback, Senorise Perry had a 54-yard touchdown run late in the fourth against a bunch of guys who are googling a Rosetta Stone Canadian subscription.

This particular game isn't for fans interested in football aesthetics or an adrenaline rush. It's for guys like John Timu, Sam Acho and Sherrick McManis. It's a chance for the veterans to knock some rust off and get back on the bike for another long ride through the winter.

It's de rigueur to write "One down, three more to go" at the end of a first preseason game.

For once, few in Chicago are saying the Bears season can't come soon enough. Soon it will come, and like the winter, we'll have to deal with it the best we can.

At best, the Bears hope to surprise their fans with some enjoyable football. At worst, it will be what we expected all along.