Commentary

Game looked worst from Cutler's view

Bears quarterback sacked five times in sloppy loss, with Williams the biggest culprit

Updated: August 30, 2010, 1:19 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Somewhere, Rex Grossman's ears are burning.

When Lovie Smith was asked if Chris Williams' scholarship at left tackle was open to competition, Smith paid homage to his own famous quote from the Grossman era.

"Chris Williams is our left tackle," Smith said in his famous drawl.

If Williams plays left tackle like he did in the first half of Saturday's 32-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Jay Cutler won't be your quarterback for very long.

Smith said the Bears talked about starting fast, but his team, now 0-2 and fading in preseason power rankings, couldn't have had a worse start in its first home game, unless you threw in some dynamite, an Acme-brand anvil and an inviting cliff.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jerry Lai/US PresswireBears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked five times during Saturday's loss to the Raiders.

A breezy, 81-yard drive by Oakland and then two consecutive sacks of Cutler brought out boos from the die-hards filling the stands Saturday night, but the Bears quickly found their stride to take the lead into halftime.

Well, maybe "stride" is too strong of a word. How about hobbled gait?

Yes, the first-team Bears won the first half 14-13, highlighted by Matt Forte's 89-yard scoring run and some promising pressure by Julius Peppers, but preseason games aren't about silver linings and cheery praise.

If you get any value in a preseason game, it's the chance to see potential hazards early and for the coaches to gather up ammunition to teach and cajole in the weeks to come.

Some important, highly negative, very real facts from the Bears' second preseason game:

  • Cutler was sacked five times, and none of them seemed to be his fault.

  • Brian Urlacher left after the first series with a left calf strain.

  • Tight end Desmond Clark's second career as a long-snapper is a long shot. He botched three snaps in relief of injured long-snapper Patrick Mannelly in another wretched performance by the special teams.

  • Jason Campbell completed his first five passes for 89 yards, including a 24-yard screen pass to Michael Bush on third-and-17, and torched the Bears' defense for 170 yards in the first half.

  • Oakland fullback Marcel Reece had a 40-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass. You know what they say: You can't hold or hope to contain Marcel Reece, especially if you've never heard of him.

    Like every team at this stage of the summer, the Bears are a work in progress.

    It's silly to assume this game is a harbinger of the regular season. But it's also wrong to assume the Bears' problems will just go away when the regular season begins.

    Forget Urlacher's injury. Smith said he should be fine. And don't worry about Clark, who admitted he was trying to be perfect, but should never snap in a real game. The defense's failure to tackle on screen passes is confounding, but that's still not a cause for desperation just yet. They won't have to deal with the deadly combo of Campbell-to-Reece again, either.

    But five sacks? In one half? If you questioned the Bears for pulling Cutler after one drive last week against San Diego's blitz-happy defense, please proceed to the local bookstore, buy "Football for Dummies" and smack yourself in the head a few times.

    And if you believed Mike Martz, who has been praising his line left and right in Camp Sunshine, I've got some September Cubs tickets to sell you.

    I guess you could look at the line's porous pass protection positively. If preseason is just practice against different colored jerseys, at least Cutler got some practice eating grass.

    He was sacked 35 times last year, a career high, which led to the hiring of Mike Tice to coach the line. But Tice might not have enough pencils to draw up a way for this line to keep Cutler upright.

    Williams was the main culprit. The former first-round pick did his best Orlando Pace-in-2009 impression, as outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley abused him and piled up four sacks. To be fair, Wimbley rushed Williams and then stunted to the middle for one sack. You can't just bull rush every time.

    "Not good enough," Smith said of Williams' game. "Whenever you give up a couple sacks as an offensive lineman, it's not good. Chris is a better player than that."

    "No, it's not going to happen again," Williams said, wearing a Vanderbilt cap befitting his Vanderbilt performance. "I don't know what you want me to tell you, except I'll keep working hard. There's nothing else to say."

    Cutler got up quickly after each sack, dusted himself off and went to work. He didn't blast his line, but he was honest afterward. If there's one thing he has experience with in his collegiate and pro career, it's getting sacked behind an overmatched line.

    "Clearly it's too much," Cutler said. "It's definitely not going to be acceptable. I think the offensive line is probably a little disappointed in themselves. But it's the second preseason game. We've got a lot of time to make corrections. It wasn't like they were completely busting protections either. They were in the right spot, just physically, their sets weren't deep enough a few times with Chris. Technically they were in the right spot, which was good."

    Cutler finished 7-for-15 for 99 yards and a touchdown, with 86 yards split between four long passes to four receivers.

    Forte's long run was the result of good run blocking.

    [+] EnlargeJohnny Knox
    AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJohnny Knox returned punts and also caught the Bears' only touchdown pass on Saturday.

    Johnny Knox caught the only touchdown pass, which came on a broken play. On fourth-and-7 at Oakland's 22, just inside the two-minute warning, Cutler adroitly stepped past the pressure in the pocket -- he has played with Williams before -- to scramble left and Knox caught his man, third-string rookie corner Jeremy Ware, napping to get wide open in the end zone for the score.

    "We had some stuff front-side and it broke down a little bit," Cutler said. "We talk about those things as an offense. The receivers know when I'm on the move, they've got specific rules."

    If I had to pick my favorite Cutler throw, it would have to be a 17-yard catch-and-run by Chester Taylor on a screen. I have a feeling we'll see that a lot.

    Taylor's skill catching the ball and picking up YAC (yards after catch) is what endeared him to the Bears in the first place. Martz's offense requires running backs that can catch, and the Bears' offensive line will offer many opportunities for planned routes, quick hitters and busted plays.

    "There's some good stuff for us to watch on tape," Cutler said. "There are some opportunities we missed, especially early. The second play is probably going to be a highlight. We hold up on that, it's an 80-yard touchdown to Devin [Hester]. You can see it, that Mike's system works. It's very evident to everyone on the field. Offensively, if we do what we're supposed to do, the ball's going to move down the field very efficiently."

    If Cutler's talking about the Bears' second play on offense, he got sacked for a 9-yard loss by defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who beat right guard Lance Louis.

    But Cutler's analysis was spot-on. If the Bears' line holds up, there are 80-yard gains waiting to happen. If it doesn't, Cutler might be learning a new offense again in 2011.

    Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

    Jon Greenberg

    Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
    Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.
  • SPONSORED HEADLINES

    MORE NFL HEADLINES