Five Things We Learned: Bears-Chargers
August, 15, 2013
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastMatt Forte rushed for 74 yards, including a 58-yard run that set up the Bears' first touchdown.CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 33-28 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday:
1. Matt Forte pumped life into the offense: After an inauspicious opening drive that lost 18 yards in three plays (two sacks, one negative rush) Forte ignited the offense with a 58-yard run around left end that showcased the tailback's speed, power and elusiveness in the open field. Forte then scored from 3 yards out on the Bears’ final drive of the first quarter, a rare feat for the former Pro Bowler, whom the Bears routinely took out of the game in the red zone in recent years. The bottom line is that for all the talk about the Bears' work-in-progress passing attack, Forte's contributions on the ground are vital to the success of the team. Forte looks to be in the best football shape of his life and there is no reason for the Bears not to use him accordingly.
2. Brandon Marshall remains the focal point: Jay Cutler attempted five passes Thursday, all five of which went to Marshall. Now, the results were OK, with Marshall catching four of those balls for 38 yards and one touchdown. If Marshall is the only guy open on those plays, then by all means, Cutler needs to fire the ball to his No. 1 wideout. But when the regular season rolls around, it would be nice for the quarterback to spread the ball around, a feat he was not able to accomplish last year for whatever reason. Marshall is a perennial Pro Bowl player. He needs the ball. But even Marshall said in the offseason he felt his hip injury that required offseason surgery was a result of being used too much in 2012. The Bears invested heavily to surround Cutler with better skill position players, and it would likely be in the best interest of the team if he also distributes the ball to them when the real games begin.
3. Kyle Long is a beast: Long is still learning on the job. There will be bumps in the road for him at right guard his rookie season, but his potential appears to be unlimited. Long absolutely blasted San Diego defensive end Jarius Wynn as he pulled late in the first quarter, a play offensive linemen dream of. Long and fellow rookie right tackle Jordan Mills seemed to do more than simply hold their own against the Chargers. It looked like they won the majority of their matchups, especially in the run game. And I loved the fact the Bears kept the duo in the game into the second half. They need all the reps they can get if the two rookies are going to be ready to begin the regular season in the starting lineup, a proposition that is becoming closer and closer to becoming reality.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesKyle Long was impressive in his second preseason game.
4. Jon Bostic keeps showing up: Once again, Bostic made a few errors in the second preseason game that I'm sure the coaches will address with him during the week leading up to the third preseason game in Oakland. But Bostic made his presence known when he annihilated Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie on a quick slant in the second half. That hit was worthy of NFL Films. The second-round pick is making it more difficult to envision veteran D.J. Williams starting the season at middle linebacker, which was the club's original plan until Williams badly injured his calf early in camp. Unless Williams somehow gets himself back on the field next week and lights the world on fire in the final two preseason games, it's going to be hard for the Bears coaches to send Bostic back to the bench after what he has shown up to this point.
5. Defensive line produced minus Peppers: Even with Julius Peppers being a late scratch due to coaches' decision, the Bears defensive line made life miserable for San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers. Defensive ends Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton both found ways to get to the quarterback, with McClellin displaying the burst off the edge that general manager Phil Emery described when he selected McClellin at No. 19 overall in the 2012 NFL draft. McClellin still needs to get stronger and is not an every down, hand-in-the-ground pass rusher, but the Bears likely will get creative with the second-year player by asking him to move around the defense and occasionally drop back into coverage. Defensive tackle Nate Collins continued his strong summer by sacking the quarterback in the second quarter, taking advantage of the opportunity presented to him when Pro Bowler Henry Melton suffered a concussion last week in Carolina. Depth on the line could still be an issue, but the starters have flashed quite often during the preseason, a trend the team desperately wants to carry over next month into the regular season.