Perhaps the most uplifting news to come out of Monday night’s 41-13 loss to the New York Giants was that Jay Cutler was able to walk off the field. Considering that the most important part of any preseason game is for a team to avoid key injuries, the Bears were fortunate that Cutler was able to avoid the 9-sack beating he took the last time they visited the Giants.
The Bears appeared to be sloppy and unprepared in all three phases of the game. On offense, Roy Williams dropped a pair of passes early in the game and Matt Forte and Chester Taylor combined for 14 yards on 7 carries. Defensively, the Bears missed several tackles early, lost containment on outside runs, and had a difficult time containing the bruising run style of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. And on special teams, aside from one kickoff that he took from deep in the end zone out to the 40-yard line, Johnny Knox struggled to find room to return his kickoffs and the coverage teams allowed the Giants to start with good field position on several occasions. Also, the punt team allowed the Giants to block a punt with less than a minute to go in the first half which led to a touchdown.
Even when the Bears put together a successful drive, they were unable to cap it off with a touchdown. Late in the first quarter, the offense began at its 14-yard line and came out throwing. Cutler connected with Devin Hester down the right sideline for a 37-yard completion on first down. After the play, Cutler was shown patting his chest to take responsibility for not making a better throw because his pass helped carry Hester out of bounds. Had he been able to keep Hester’s momentum in the field of play, it could have gone for a touchdown. Still, it was a great throw on a good play call.
On the next play, the Bears executed well on a screen pass to Forte on which he was able to make some nice moves to avoid tacklers, reverse field and scramble 42 yards down to the Giants’ 7-yard line. But the Bears could not punch the ball in the end zone from there. Hester stumbled out of his break on second down and then couldn’t hold on to a pass at the goal line on third down.
The Bears did a good job of protecting Cutler in the first quarter but he was dropped in the backfield for a sack on the first play of the second quarter. In fairness to the line, Cutler might have been able to throw the ball away as he was flushed out of the pocket, but he chose to hold on to it.
The Bears’ starting defense had its moments of success, although Eli Manning was erratic early and some of his passes stalled Giants drives. Matt Toeaina had nice penetration into the backfield on one play in the first series which caused Bradshaw to be dropped in the backfield by Chris Harris and Tim Jennings for a loss of four yards. Julius Peppers made his presence felt in the backfield, disrupting the flow of a handful of plays.
There was one special teams play from early in the game that stood out. Credit Nick Roach and Corey Graham on their punt coverage midway through the first quarter. Roach was there first and lunged at the punt returner to slow him down while Graham cleaned him up. But Robbie Gould missed yet another field goal — badly — and, as mentioned previously, the kick coverage in general was not good.
One of the points of emphasis I mentioned before the game to keep an eye on was safety Major Wright’s progress in the defensive backfield. Despite having a good first preseason game, Wright struggled against the Giants. On New York’s first touchdown of the game, Wright was frozen in his tracks by Jacobs, who made a juke move and rumbled 18 yards for the score while leaving Wright grasping for air on his way to the ground.
Said ESPN’s play-by-play man, Mike Tirico: “Can somebody pick up Major Wright’s jock?”
It’s not very often you hear a broadcaster say that on air, but it emphasized just how badly Wright looked on the play.
After the reserves came into the game, things went from bad to worse. The Bears gave up four touchdowns after the early Jacobs score, the last of which was a 97-yard run late in the fourth quarter. The Bears tacked on a late Kahlil Bell touchdown run with less than a minute to go, but the damage — and the embarrassment — was already done.
I’ll have more thoughts and observations to come.