Bears lose with stagnant first-team offense
The Bears’ 24-20 loss Thursday to Kansas City in their preseason opener looked a lot like last year’s disappointing 7-9 season.
And that was even before KC third-stringer Tyler Thigpen threw a 27-yard TD pass with 1:08 left. That wiped out a Chicago lead gained primarily by Bears’ third-stringers Garrett Wolfe and Caleb Hanie.
The Bears’ first-stringers still made silly mistakes and struggled to pick up third downs and score points.
On the other hand, rookie Matt Forte and a rebuilt offensive line showed signs of improving on a disastrous running game that averaged an NFL-worst 3.1 yards per carry last year. Forte was particularly adept at finding small holes between the tackles. He finished with 25 yards on seven carries, but gained at least 2 yards on every carry.
And Forte was running behind a line that was missing No. 1 draft pick Chris Williams, who had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back Thursday morning, and left guard Terrence Metcalf, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee Monday.
“He was a physical runner,” starting quarterback Kyle Orton said. “He ran down hill, which is a point of emphasis in our offense.”
Chicago’s first-team offensive line paved the way for 55 yards rushing on 11 carries (5.0 average) in the first half and would not have given up a sack if Orton hadn’t dropped the ball on a scramble.
Chicago’s first-team offense ran only two plays inside Kansas City’s 20 in its one half of play. Tight end Greg Olsen was called for holding on the first one. Orton’s fumble ended the second.
The Bears’ other mistakes included illegal blocking penalties on two of Kansas City’s three punts to Devin Hester, Rex Grossman falling on his rear after taking a snap, and Danieal Manning dragging a Brad Maynard punt that would have died at the 1 into the end zone.
The Bears trailed 14-3 at the half and converted 1 of 5 third downs. That’s a carryover from last year, when Chicago ranked 29th in the NFL on third down (34 percent).
Chicago was even worse, at least early, with its third-down defense. Kansas City went 5-for-5 on third down in a game-opening 16-play, 81-yard drive. Third-year quarterback Brodie Croyle, who has six career starts, burned Chicago with passes of 12 and 22 yards on third-and-10 and third-and-15.
“It couldn’t have gone much better for us,” Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. “We got our running game going and hit some timely passes.”
The Bears defense, second in the NFL on third down (32.7 percent) last year, soon got back to what it wanted. The Bears held the Chiefs to zero first downs on their next three possessions.
Kansas City then burned Chicago in the two-minute drill. Backup Damon Huard led a 75-yard drive in the last 1:44, hitting Maurice Price for an 8-yard touchdown pass and a 14-3 lead with 11 seconds left in the half.
\Wolfe was the third-quarter star. The second-year back had a 42-yard run from the 6. Then, after linebacker Rod Wilson intercepted third-string QB Tyler Thigpen, Wolfe turned a short pass over the middle from Grossman into a 25-yard touchdown.
Hanie, an undrafted rookie free agent, put Chicago ahead 17-14 with a 13-yard pass to Brandon Rideau, one play after a 25-yard strike to rookie tight end Kellen Davis. After the Chiefs tied it, Hanie led a 58-yard drive to set up Robbie Gould’s 37-yard field goal for a 20-17 lead with 3:19 remaining.
Orton finished 7-for-10 for 56 yards and Grossman 4-for-8 for 44 yards and the touchdown to Wolfe.
“I thought we played all right on offense,” Orton said. “We just need to find a way to score some more points.”
Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or email@example.com.