GLENDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t a pick-six this time, but it was just as egregious.
Just when Mike Glennon seemed to be settling in as the Bears’ starting quarterback Saturday — he led the first-team offense to a field goal and was on the verge of a touchdown — he stared down receiver Kendall Wright on an out route down the right sideline about three minutes into the second quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Glennon threw the ball late, and in stepped Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, who picked off the pass at the 5-yard line and went flying down the sideline. He was one block away from a 95-yard highlight-reel touchdown, but he settled for a 52-yard return.
The Cardinals scored 11 plays later on a one-yard pass from Carson Palmer to tight end Jermaine Gresham, and doubts about Glennon returned anew in the Bears’ 24-23 preseason victory.
To that point, Glennon had looked better than he did the previous week, though that was a bar low enough to intimidate even the best limbo dancers. In his debut against the Broncos, the Bears’ big-money free-agent signee threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on his first drive, moved his team exactly zero yards on his first three possessions and finished with a passer rating of 0.0.
“I think it was good for the offense, just in general,” Glennon said. “Like I said last week after the game, I was already eager to kinda be in this situation and have to wait, what is it, nine days?”
The Bears said all week they had confidence in Glennon, who has impressed his teammates with his leadership skills since the team signed him in March. Mitch Trubisky — whom the Bears drafted with the No. 2 overall pick exactly seven weeks later, much to Glennon’s surprise — was dynamic in his debut.
The rookie, however, couldn’t say the same Saturday. Trubisky entered with 2:04 left in the third quarter — Mark Sanchez got one possession after Glennon played the first half — and was solid, but he lacked the magic he showed against the Broncos.
Trubisky’s performance will be remembered by the hits he took. He was sacked twice on his first drive. Defensive end Olsen Pierre ripped him down by his facemask on the first, drawing a flag. On the Bears’ next drive, Trubisky was hit below the knees by defensive end Peli Anau — who also was penalized — as he threw a screen pass.
“I think our protection broke down a couple times,” coach John Fox said.” I know he got hit pretty solidly a couple times. But all in all, I thought he did pretty well.”
Trubisky also threw a deep ball that might have ended in an interception had receiver Tanner Gentry not been called — justifiably — for offensive pass interference. Later, Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams dropped an interception.
Like Glennon, Trubisky rallied at the end, throwing a six-yard touchdown pass to Benny Cunningham on a rollout with 1:55 left. He finished 6-for-8 for 60 yards.
“In preseason games, you get a limited amount of reps, limited amount of snaps,” Trubisky said. “So you just try to take advantage of most of them and finish in the end zone.”
The Bears were intent on giving Glennon easy throws, hoping to build his confidence. His first two throws were screens, and he averaged less than five yards per pass attempt in the first half, completing 13 of 18 passes for 89 yards, a touchdown and the interception.
Glennon was given a chance to redeem himself after the interception, and he did — albeit against backups and with a shortened field. The Bears started their last drive of the first half at the Cardinals’ 44-yard line, thanks to a 16-yard punt return by rookie Eddie Jackson.
Glennon converted a third-and-five with a six-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller. Cam Meredith caught the next pass over the middle for 18 yards, and a roughing-the-passer penalty on Haason Reddick moved the ball to the Cardinals’ 7.
Glennon threw behind Meredith on a slant route for an incomplete pass, then found Wright in the right flat against a blitz for his first touchdown with the Bears.
“It was great to get that last drive together. the offense moved the ball real well, got the field goal,” Glennon said. “And then the turnover wasn’t a good thing but the way we responded was more important. I thought all of our guys, myself, everyone, responded well, bounced back and got that touchdown drive.”
Fox said Game 2 of the preseason “was a big improvement” for the first-team offense.
Before the game, general manager Ryan Pace told the Bears’ official pregame show he hoped to see the team’s starters move in the right direction. It was his way of trying to focus on more than just Glennon, who had been the subject of public consternation the last nine days.
‘‘Last week, the entire offense needed to play better — and they know that,’’ Pace said on sister stations 780-AM and 105.9-FM. ‘‘We’re looking for a rhythm. They’ve had a good practice this week. Things have been more in sync. We need to get the running game going. And this will be an important evaluation.’’
Rookie running back Tarik Cohen passed. Filling in for Jordan Howard, who stayed in Chicago because of a minor eye injury, he gained 77 yards on 11 carries.
But the focus was on Glennon and Trubisky. Glennon didn’t do enough to quiet the excitement around Trubisky, but Trubisky didn’t necessarily build on it, either.
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