Bears have work to do after first preseason game

Jay Cutler got pulled before he ever entered the game. Matt

Forte and Julius Peppers watched from the sideline, and Brian

Urlacher wasn’t even at the stadium.

Considering the Chicago Bears were missing four of their best

players and that other stars got a quick hook, it’s not hard to see

why they lost 31-3 to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the

preseason opener on Thursday. But there are some things to take

away from the game.

One is that they clearly have work to do.

”We didn’t play as well as I thought we would,” coach Lovie

Smith said.

Then again, they were missing some key pieces.

Urlacher’s absence was hardly a shocker after he missed time in

six practices because of his injured left knee and for personal

reasons, but Forte and Peppers were also spectators. So was Cutler.

He had already warmed up when Smith decided to give the quarterback

a breather after his fiancee, Kristin Cavallari, gave birth to a

boy the previous day. The coach also wanted to get a look at

newcomer Jason Campbell working with the first team.

The result? Well, there’s room to improve.

The Bears managed 41 yards in the first half.

”It’s difficult a little bit,” said Campbell, who was 4 of 5

for 13 yards before Josh McCown relieved him. ”You really don’t

want to show a whole lot of things we’ve been doing in training

camp. We’re an explosive group. Tonight it didn’t seem that way

because tonight we didn’t do a lot of those things.”

Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall caught one pass before

calling it a night in his first appearance after the Bears acquired

him from Miami, and Devin Hester didn’t play much, either. One

starter who did was left tackle J’Marcus Webb.

He stayed in until midway through the fourth quarter.

”Just some players we thought needed reps, we needed to see,”

Smith said. ”Our tackles are two of them. We wanted to get them a

lot of reps as much as anything. Just practice time, improving our

ballclub. Some of the guys we kind of know a little more about

now.”

It’s unusual for teams to leave starters in for more than one or

two series in the preseason opener, let alone play them into the

fourth quarter. But the Bears seemed to be delivering a loud

message – Webb needs to step up his game if he’s going to keep his

spot.

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice has been a big supporter, but he

has also acknowledged that no one has really grabbed the job. That

position is the biggest question mark on a team that’s eyeing a big

run after a disappointing 8-8 finish.

The Bears believe they have the depth to go deep in the playoffs

after a busy offseason, but it remains to be seen if they can

finally protect their quarterback, particularly on his blind side.

Webb committed a false start on the first play of the second

quarter and didn’t exactly dominate, but he wasn’t terrible,

either.

”We’ll look at the film,” he said. ”I’ve got to get better

with knowing situations and getting better with the camaraderie

with my fellow lineman.”

As for the long night at work?

”I didn’t look at it that way,” he said. ”I think it was a

time to get better. I’m a young player and if the team needs me to

stay in, then I will.”

On the other side of the ball, rookie defensive end Shea

McClellin had a better night after taking a beating in training

camp. The first-round pick from Boise State sacked former Bears

quarterback Caleb Hanie for a 10-yard loss late in the first

quarter and was credited with three tackles and two quarterback

hits.

He also was called for a 15-yard personal foul for a blow to

Hanie’s head near the end of the half, so it wasn’t a flawless

performance. It was promising, though, for a player who has already

taken his share of criticism.

”I have a lot to learn, a lot to work out,” McClellin said.

”It’s a start. There were some good things, some bad things.”