CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler expressed disappointment about not involving more of his weapons in the passing game Thursday night during the club's 33-28 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers.
Cutler directed each of the five passes he threw in the first quarter to Brandon Marshall, including one that he forced into bracket coverage for an interception. Good field position, believe it or not, played a role, along with reluctance on the team's part to reveal the its red zone offensive package in a meaningless preseason game.
"We'd like to [involve more players], but with that short field and [running back] Matt [Forte] was running the ball well," Cutler said. "We wanted to ease those two young kids [rookie offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills] in a little bit. We didn't stress them too much. I thought, apart from the pick, the first unit did really well."
The starting offense played a total of 15 snaps in the first quarter, with the team's average drive starting at its own 46. After going three-and-out on its opening drive, Chicago started its next possession on its own 16. But a 58-yard run by Forte on the sixth play of that drive put the Bears at the San Diego 5.
From there, Cutler hit Marshall for a 5-yard touchdown on a back-shoulder throw.
"We were on a short field, and we were limited in some of the plays we wanted to call in the first 15. We really limited ourselves," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We knew going in that if we had as many red zone opportunities that we had, we were gonna have to run the ball because we didn't go in with the normal number of plays necessary or that we would want to use in a preseason game. So we were left to third-down runs, and doing other things to try to split a defense without exposing or using much of our red zone offense. As I look back, you always want to be able to score touchdowns there. We tried to do it. We really didn't do it with a full complement of plays."
Chicago's third possession started on San Diego's 34 with 5:31 left in the first quarter, courtesy of a Chris Conte interception.
But Cutler quickly gave it back on an interception when he forced a throw to Marshall, who was bracketed over the top and underneath by Chargers defenders.
Cutler said he "didn't misread" the play and "knew what I was doing," but admitted he should have thrown to a secondary target to "keep the drive alive." So in a sense, Cutler indicated he knowingly took a gamble by attempting to squeeze a pass into coverage to Marshall.
"There's times he's taken chances that would be more relevant than that one was," Trestman said. "That was not a play he needed to take a chance on. It was zone coverage. There's a time to force the ball and use your arm and put it up into man-to-man coverage when there's a single defender and a single player, and that really wasn't one of those situations. I think that I'm not gonna get overly concerned about it at this point."
Trestman also isn't too worked up about all the balls thrown Marshall's way. In fact, the coach indicated that early on they had several plays dialed up that featured tight end Martellus Bennett, but the club took a different direction because of good field position. Reluctant to reveal too much of the playbook on the short field, the Bears operated with just a limited set of plays.
"I don't know that any of this passing-game wise is any indication of the direction hopefully we're going, because we don't want to be a one-dimensional team," Trestman said. "But Brandon hasn't had much practice time either. It was good to see him go out, and have an opportunity to make plays. To see that he was physically ready to do that was encouraging."
As was Forte's performance.
Forte rushed for 74 yards and a 3-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first quarter that gave the Bears a 14-0 lead after Robbie Gould's extra-point kick.
What's more is the club showed confidence in Forte's ability to move the sticks in short-yardage situations. His 58-yard run came on third-and-1. Forte's 3-yard TD came after three consecutive attempts to the right, with the first two carries gaining 8 yards.
"We'll start to game plan a little more and continue to fight to get on the same page," said left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who delivered the key block on Forte's 58-yard run. "Remember, it's not just an overnight offense or something we can just learn as a unit. I've been in about 80 percent or 90 percent of this system for a while, and it just takes time."