Commentary

Check, check and check

The Bears mark off items on their preseason to-do list against the Giants

Originally Published: August 22, 2009
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

It was as if Jay Cutler's objective Saturday night was to reassure Chicago Bears fans and media.

Calm down, people. The offense will be just fine, thank you very much.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jerry Lai/US PresswireJay Cutler improved substantially from his Bears debut.

That's not to say everything was perfect in the Bears' 17-3 victory over the New York Giants in their second exhibition game. Greg Olsen, playing in his first game after being kept out last week as a precaution, let one short pass go through his hands. Devin Hester still appears to be cutting in the wrong direction on his routes, doing just that on a third-and-10 from the 16-yard line on the Bears' first possession following the Olsen drop.

And Cutler's hair did appear to be out of place at one point.

Other than that, to wit:

Cutler, check.

The Bears' wonder boy led the team on three scoring drives -- including two touchdowns -- on his three possessions for the night: 121 yards on 8-for-13 passing, a TD pass and a 117.8 passer rating, a nice improvement from his 30.8 passer rating last week against Buffalo.

Seven of Cutler's 25 plays went for 10 yards or more. In total, Cutler's three drives went for 222 yards before he left the game at 10:17 of the second quarter.

"Everyone got a little excited last week whenever we didn't produce," Cutler said.

Matt Forte, check. Every bit as talented and valuable in his first appearance of the 2009 preseason as we remembered from 2008, gaining 58 yards on nine carries, including a 32-yard touchdown on which he felt only the hot breath of Giants' defenders.

"It seemed like he was back to his old form," said Bears coach Lovie Smith.

Earl Bennett, check. As widely advertised, he certainly looked like he had a special rapport with old college buddy Cutler. On the third play from scrimmage, Cutler threaded a 27-yard beauty to the wideout across midfield. Bennett also corralled a 15-yarder on the next series. And he probably would have had another 23-yarder on the third series if not for a pass interference.

"It's exciting any time you get out there and have a chance to make a play and then make it," said Bennett, perfectly expressing the rather humble expectations Bears fans have had for their quarterbacks and presently have for their receivers.

Offensive line, fine. Aside from Forte being stopped for no gain or a loss on three carries, and aside from Cutler being crunched by a Giants blitz on the 27-yard completion to Bennett out of the shotgun, no real worries.

Frank Omiyale, starting at left guard, looked very good, particularly when he cleared the way for Forte on his touchdown run. That play came out of a no-huddle by the Bears, which they trotted out about half the time, with offensive coordinator Ron Turner giving Cutler the option to audible out of a pass play.

"We did quite a bit of it last year and it's something our guys really like and feel good about," Turner said. "It gives us an opportunity to go up-tempo, to see the field, change some plays, give him a call and then he has the freedom to change it if it's a bad look."

If the fans weren't giddy enough watching that unfold, Cutler's teammates were.

"He does things out there that I've never seen," Forte said. "I've never had a quarterback like that. I'm definitely glad he's here."

[+] EnlargeEarl Bennett
Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIREThis near-pick was the only hiccup in the Jay Cutler-to-Earl Bennett hookup on Saturday.

Cutler's toughness? Deserves another check for bouncing up after being hit on the Bennett pass. Also scrambled for a 12-yard gain on a third-and-6 from the Bears' 49 and slid like, well, like an NFL quarterback is supposed to scramble and slide.

"It was good to get hit out there a little bit," Cutler said. "It's been eight, nine months since I've had some contact. Once you get hit, you can kind of get a feel for the game and start feeling more comfortable."

Smith said he wasn't the least bit concerned about his franchise QB, called him a "big, strong guy." Clearly, the head coach was busy focusing on the fact Cutler scrambled with a purpose and got the job done.

"Everyone knows about Jay's arm and he had some great throws tonight to our receivers," Smith said. "But being able to keep the drive going, he's an athlete. We're banking on him being able to make plays like that. It's good to see him take another step."

Cutler wasn't overly concerned with the Hester miscommunication. Or if he was, he is not going down that road again.

"It's going to happen," Cutler said, even his postgame comments reflecting a sort of singsong "Don't worry" tone. "We're going to miss throws out there. Sometimes we're not going to execute. You have to go on to the next play. We always bounce back."

Robbie Gould added a 44-yard field goal, Cutler found Desmond Clark for a 1-yard TD toss set up by another pretty 37-yarder to Devin Aromashodu, and the Bears' offense in the first half continued the momentum after the starters went out, with a healthy advantage in time of possession, 17:19 to 12:41, and 282 yards in total offense to 99 for the Giants.

"We wanted to come out and have a better showing than last week," Forte said. "It means a lot."

It meant a lot, as well, that the defense came back after last week's sloppy showing. Brandon Jacobs, the Giants' 6-foot-4, 264-pound running back, accounted for nearly 50 percent of New York's offense in the first half with 27 yards rushing on seven carries and a 16-yard reception. But despite a couple of missed tackles, the Bears were much-improved and largely contained the big, five-year veteran from Southern Illinois.

"We're getting better," Alex Brown said. "That's a big boy out there, you've got to have more than one man to get him down."

If all goes according to plan, the Bears' defense should at least enjoy more rest with Cutler in charge.

"They're good," Brown said of the offense. "We have a good team. But it takes offense, defense, special teams, it takes everybody, the fans, to put together this special team we think we have."

Think we all know where it starts, however.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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