CINCINNATI — Everything keeps going Kyle Fuller’s way.
The Bears cornerback was in the right place at the right time again Thursday. When Bengals receiver John Ross slipped on a downfield route, Fuller was right there to intercept Andy Dalton’s pass near midfield and return it 47 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium.
“Just playing what I saw,” Fuller said. “I know he’s a fast guy. Got a good break once I saw him break. When I got there, the ball was there, also. The guy happened to fall and just being able to capitalize on the catch and get a couple of blocks.”
It’s only the preseason — ostensibly the preseason opener for Bears starters — when nothing is defining no matter how tempting it is to anoint Adam Shaheen for a couple of catches or put Kevin White on the waiver wire for an early drop. But when Fuller makes a play, it’s easy to admire the continuation of a good story that seems to get better with each turn of the page.
Fuller not only was in position to take advantage of the break, but he made the play and earned the touchdown. When Bengals tacklers cut down the angle on his return, Fuller cut back inside at the 15-yard line and quickly weaved his way upfield into the end zone to give the Bears a 7-7 tie.
Fuller also had help from his teammates. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, with a nifty inside arm-over move, put just enough pressure on Dalton to rush the throw. Defensive end Akiem Hicks also was effective in his brief stint.
“I thought he was slow as hell,” Hicks said in jest. “I watched him. I said, ‘I thought you ran a 4.4 . It didn’t quite look like it. But he got home, so I was happy for him.’ ”
“I didn’t know he got the pick. I just knew I was real close to getting a sack,” Floyd said. “But I’m happy we scored a touchdown. I’d rather have a touchdown than a sack any day.”
Fuller’s touchdown was the biggest highlight in a mostly shaky performance by the Bears’ defense. Tackling was an issue. Linebacker Danny Trevathan, recently back from a hamstring injury, and cornerback Prince Amukamara were given the night off, and the Bears felt their absence.
Linebacker John Timu, starting for Trevathan, missed a tackle that helped Joe Mixon turn a short pass into a 24-yard touchdown reception (safety Adrian Amos missed Mixon, as well). And Marcus Cooper, starting for Amukamara, had a tough time with A.J. Green — a challenging matchup for anyone — just missing breaking up a pass that Green turned into a 26-yard gain that led to a Bengals touchdown.
The first-team defense allowed two touchdowns and scored one on three possessions in a mostly disappointing performance in the first half.
But Fuller, Hicks and Floyd looked good their first time out. Nick Kwiatkoski blocked a pass on a blitz with the second-team defense. While the first-team defense allowed 139 yards on 16 plays (8.7 average), it also gained 35 yards of field position on Fuller’s pick for a net of 104 yards allowed (6.5 average).
The defense left a lot of room for improvement. But help figures to be on the way, with Trevathan and Amukamara returning — and rookie Roquan Smith eventually signing his contract. The bottom line: It’s the preseason — too early to get excited and too early to panic.
“It’s part of the growing pains,” Floyd said. “It’s really going to help us get better. We’ll watch the film, see all the errors we made and just go out and practice and try to fix it.”
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