Bears Drop Opener to Manning, Broncos

The Bears have plenty of work still to do before the regular season kicks off next month.  A dismal showing in their preseason opener vs. Denver saw the Bears fall 31-3.

The Bears played without Brian Urlacher, who missed practice time for “personal reasons” while recovering from a knee injury. Lovie Smith also held out Julius Peppers, Matt Forte and Jay Cutler for precautionary reasons.

A monsoon hit the Chicago area Thursday night, left the field conditions less than ideal and opened the risk for potential injury to three of the most important players on the team.

Much of the pregame chatter surrounded Cutler’s playing time, as he welcomed his first child into the world on Wednesday morning. Many also wondered about the playing time of Peyton Manning, who was playing in his first game since a playoff loss to the New York Jets in 2010.

Though unlike Culter, Manning played. He led the Broncos into the red zone on the first series, converting four of seven passes for 44 yards before a Major Wright interception off a deflection from Bears nickelback DJ Moore, which ended the night for Manning.

Aside from Cutler and Forte, all eyes were on Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush. Marshall finished with one catch for four yards, and Bush had three carries for two yards and a costly fumble that led to three Denver points.

Luckily for the Bears, plenty of preseason play remains, as the offensive line looked as dismal as ever.  The Broncos shut down the Bears run game, limiting the Bears to 36 yards on 21 carries for a pedestrian 1.7 yards per carry.

The pass protection was just as bad, as the Denver defense sacked Bears quarterbacks six times, albeit three of them came late in the game when undrafted Lake Zurich product Matt Blanchard was under center.

The most telling statistic for the ineptitude of the offense in this game is the 0-11 efficiency on third downs. Failing to convert a third down into a fresh set of downs is unacceptable in any game.

But a bright spot for the offense was rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery, who made some nice plays and led the team with four receptions and 35 yards on five targets.

Not surprisingly, the Bears defense looked dreadful, as they played without its two best defenders in Urlacher and Peppers. Outside the Wright interception, Shea McClellin provided glimpses of the burst and athleticism that made him the 19th pick in the NFL draft in April.

The rookie from Boise State finished his first professional game with three solo tackles with one for a loss, a sack and two quarterback hits.

Other than that not too many plays will stand out when the team watches the film of this first preseason game. The defense allowed 156 rushing yards on 36 carries and 4.2 yards per carry – a number that Lovie and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will need to see decrease in subsequent weeks.

This was just the first preseason game and expecting a crisp showing on either side of the ball would have been both unrealistic and foolish considering the circumstances.

Whether the Bears won by 50 or lost by 50, the most important thing to come out of this game is the health of the players. Excluding a minor hamstring injury to Wright, the team came away relatively unscathed.

With three more preseason games, the Bears will use this as a stepping stone to improve in all facets of the game when they play next Saturday vs. Washington.

Hopefully, next Saturday the stars will be shining in Soldier Field and up in the lakefront sky.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan, avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Wednesday mornings from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.