The Bears edged out the Washington Redskins 33-31 in a game that looked much closer than it actually was. Thanks to a monster 57 yard field goal by Robbie Gould in the closing seconds the Bears escaped their preseason finale at Soldier Field and picked up the win. With the starters in for both teams to start the game it was the Bears offense that looked sensational. Jay Cutler hooked up with Brandon Marshall for 41 yards on the Bears first offensive play of the game. Cutler and Marshall hooked up again later in the drive with a 20 yard play. Cutler went into the second quarter and finished 7/13 for 122 yards. Marshall had the two big catches from Cutler and finished with 61 yards. Backup running back Michael Bush showed his ability to find the end zone in short yardage situations by scoring two touchdowns inside the 10 yard line. Defensive end Israel Idonije was the stand out on defense registering 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles and a forced fumble on Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Once the starters were out the Redskins made it a game by scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter but the Bears made an impression when they needed to.
JAY CUTLER & BRANDON MARSHALL COMBO
As stated before these two looked like they didn't miss a beat since their Denver days. Cutler hit Marshall with a wide open 41 yard pass on the opening offensive play much to the joy of the crowd packing in Soldier Field. The duo hooked up later on for a 20 yard play in which Marshall was able to stop before stepping out of bounds, allow the cornerback to over pursue and run past him and then Marshall proceeded to gain another few extra yards. The play was impressive for Bears fans to see a veteran wide receiver with the understanding of where he is on the field and the fight he showed by getting all the yards he could. Though the duo only hooked up twice in the game, it was enough to satisfy and leave Bears' fans salivating at the possibilities these two can have when the games count.
The 2nd round pick impressed again, this time by showing a little fight as well. Jeffery led the team with 3 catches for 62 yards, including a 34 yarder. In the first quarter Jeffery was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty and replay showed Jeffery and Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall getting into and after a shove in the face from Hall, Jeffery retaliated with a shove of his own causing Hall's helmet to come off. While the Bears don't want to see this kind of reaction in a real game situation it was good to see that the rookie won't back down from adversaries, no matter how many years in the league they have on him. Jeffery continued his impressive preseason and looks for it to continue as he fights for the #2 wide receiver position against veterans Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. Two games in and so far I say the rookie is winning it.
The Bears didn't pursue a dominant free agent defensive end to line up on the other side of Julius Peppers and instead opted to stick with drafting She McClellin and keeping Israel Idonije. If Satuday night was any indication, the Bears may have made the right choice. Idonije had a beast of a game by racking up 2 1/2 sacks and forcing a fumble on RGIII, which Peppers recovered. Idonije looked dominant on the line and his strength and speed showed as he chased down the Redskins quarterback to force the fumble. If Idonije can have a performance like this on a regular basis then the Bears may have something brewing here.
If you wanted a blueprint of how to get coaches' attention and vie for a roster spot, then Lorenzo Booker showed the formula Saturday night by breaking out a 105 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the 2nd half. Booker showed awareness and great acceleration as he flew past the Redskins special teams. He is in contention for the third running back spot with Khalil Bell and Armando Allen and even though he didn't get a single carry the entire game, he did more in one play then the other two did the whole game combined. A solid performance from Booker in the next two preseason games or bad showings by Bell or Allen and the #3 running back position could be his to lose.
The first round pick was hard to find on Saturday when he registered only a single tackle during the game. He played on special teams and occasionally on defensive end but the Boise State alum had a difficult time separating himself from the crowd. With the starters expected to play into the third quarter during the next preseason game, McClellin will have less time to impress, meaning he has little time left to prove he deserves to be in rotation with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije once the season starts. He needs a nice showing in the last two preseason games.
THE BEARS' DEPTH AT SAFETY
Chris Conte and rookie Brandon Hardin were both injured Saturday night. Conte appeared to injure his shoulder in the 2nd quarter while attempting a tackle and never returned to the game. Hardin was carried off on a stretcher early in the 3rd quarter with what appeared to be a neck injury. Hardin appeared to lead with his head while attempting a tackle on Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen. Both Conte and Hardin could miss time due to their injuries leaving a big hole on the Bears' depth chart. If both are out for significant amounts of time the Bears will be left with few choices to fill in for either player. The Bears would have to move someone like D.J. Moore or Craig Steltz to fill in or look for someone to pick up once league wide roster cuts start taking place. With a position that's all ready thin for the Bears let's hope both Conte and Hardin have a speedy recovery.
As long as the NFL has the real NFL officials locked out then these guys may be making this category for a while. A couple pass interference calls on the Bears were debatable, specifically one called on Charles Tillman when covering Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon. With a pass that appeared to be uncatchable and with Garcon going out of bounds with no considerable contact from Tillman the officials threw the flag and called the penalty anyway. Bears analyst Tom Thayer referred to the call as "something that wouldn't be called normally" if the regular officials were in place. In another instance, an official called a false start on the Bears late in the second quarter with the Bears inside the Redskins red zone. The officials then determined the Bears called a time out, negating the penalty. The replay showed the Bears actually did have a false start, but no clear evidence of who or when the time out was called. This led to more confusion between Bears' play by play man Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer who didn't know quite was going on or how to explain it besides a reference to how the referee may have just been trying to save his own butt on a call he muffed on. Needless to say, the NFL needs to work out a deal with the real officials as soon as possible. Phantom time outs in real game situations will not only cause confusion but infuriate the coaching staffs of all teams.
A LOOK AHEAD
The Bears will be on the road the final two preseason games. First up, a trip to the east coast to take on the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The game is considered the most important of all preseason games and the starters for both teams normally go into the third quarter. The Bears will prep for this one as if it is a regular season game so expect to get the best look at both sides of the ball before the season opens up September 9th. This will be the first nationally televised game featuring the Bears this season, they will be on national TV at least six times during the regular season before flex scheduling kicks in.
QUICK BEARS NOTES
Bears defensive end and former North Carolina Tar Hell Julius Peppers confirmed that the transcript that was leaked on his alma mater's website was indeed his. Peppers released a statement via his agent saying, "I'm terribly disappointed in the fact that my privacy has been violated, as well as frustrated with whoever negligently and carelessly committed such a flagrant error." While the university never confirmed it was Peppers' transcript, his name did appear at the top of the leaked document, the university said they are investigating how it made its way on to their website. The classes on the transcript that Peppers received the highest grades on have been linked to academic fraud in an investigation that showed more than 58% of student athletes at UNC enrolled in the same classes between 2007-2011.
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