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Saturday, August 24, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Bears 34, Raiders 26

By Michael C. Wright


 
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Maybe Jay Cutler, at least for the time being, put an end Friday night to the notion that he’s overly reliant on receiver Brandon Marshall.

Cutler completed 12 of 21 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown in the Chicago Bears' 34-26 victory over the Oakland Raiders, with none of those falling into the hands of Marshall, who dropped two balls and had another one knocked away by D.J. Hayden. In a little more than two quarters of action, Cutler produced a passer rating of 93.8, which would have been higher had his targets not dropped a total of five passes over the first two quarters.

But enough of all that. Let’s take a deeper look:

What it means: Even though the Week 3 game goes down as the most important game of the preseason, the Bears can’t put too much stock in their strong performance against what was clearly an overmatched Raiders team. The Bears operated efficiently in the passing game (3-of-6 on third down), and the rushing attack tore chunks (110 yards in the first half) out of Oakland. The offensive line protected Cutler well, allowing no sacks. Most importantly, the Bears finished the game without any starters going down to injury.

The Bears can walk away encouraged because of the way they executed what up to that point was the most extensive game plan of the exhibition season. Defensively, the Bears shut down the Raiders, holding them to 0-of-6 on third downs in the first half, with Isaiah Frey and Tim Jennings picking off passes.

So Chicago’s starters ended the exhibition season on a high note considering they won’t see any action in the preseason finale at Soldier Field against Cleveland.

Forte on fire: The movement generated up front by Chicago’s zone blocking schemes continues to create monstrous creases for Matt Forte to slash through for big yardage. Consider this: over Forte’s past four quarters of action, he’s averaged 10.7 yards per attempt. He broke off runs of 17 and 35 yards against the Raiders.

Forte reeled off a 58-yard run against San Diego last week to finish with 74 yards on eight attempts.

As a receiving threat out of the backfield, Forte caught two passes for 33 yards against the Raiders, including a 32-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Rookies poised to start on the right side of the OL? It certainly looks that way. The Bears gave rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills their first starts of the preseason last week against San Diego, and then gave them another shot with the first unit Friday in Oakland. The rookies produced a strong showing in their debut, and followed up with another productive outing.

They never surrendered a sack on Cutler. The defense applied pressure on Cutler only once, but the rookies weren’t responsible. On one occasion the rush came from the left side. Cutler bobbled a snap on another play and was forced to run up the middle to salvage the play.

With Long, a first-rounder, and Mills, a fifth-round pick manning the right side, the Bears rolled up 110 yards rushing (7.3-yard average) in the first half. The staff kept Long and Mills in the game for a couple more series in the second half to give them some extra work.

Considering this outing likely earned Long and Mills starting jobs, it’s unlikely they’ll receive much, if any, action next week against the Cleveland Browns as the club closes the preseason.

If Mills has truly won the starting job at right tackle, it’s worth pondering what might happen with veteran J'Marcus Webb, who opened training camp as the starter in that spot. Webb’s roster spot could be in jeopardy considering the club has other backup options at right tackle in Jonathan Scott and Eben Britton. Scott’s recent knee issues, however, might make the team think twice about parting with Webb.

Short-field scores: Offenses should certainly take advantage of short-field situations and put points on the board when those situations arise, but that doesn’t always happen. With the Bears lately, they’ve definitely taken advantage.

Against the Chargers last week, Chicago’s first-team offense took possession three times on the plus side of the field, and turned that into a total of 13 points. In the win Friday, the Jennings INT of Matt Flynn set up the Bears at the Oakland 32. On the very next play, Cutler fired a short pass to Forte, who did the rest of the work en route to the TD.

Diversity on O: We certainly expected Bears coach Marc Trestman to flash more of the new system considering the fact they’d be using an actual game plan to attack the Raiders. The little glimpse the Bears provided indicated this team will be diverse in terms of formations.

In the first quarter alone, the Bears lined up in a three-tight end formation, and another look in which fullback Tony Fiammetta motioned from the slot into the backfield to lead-block for Forte. The club also showed an empty set (no running backs) with Forte lined up in the slot.

Coming into the game, Trestman wanted to be able to attack the Raiders without showing too much of what the Bears will do on offense in the regular season. So keep that in mind. What we saw was only a small peek.

What’s next: The Bears will take the weekend off before cutting the roster to the NFL-mandated 75-player limit on Tuesday. The starters won’t see any time in the final preseason game Thursday against Cleveland. But several on-the-bubble players will be given their most extensive action of the preseason in their final bids to secure roster spots.