The first offensive play was promising enough: a 12-yard pass right to Alshon Jeffery, playing a preseason game for the first time in two years.
The rest of the plays run by the Bears’ first-team offense Thursday night were not.
In their remaining ninesnaps, they totaled exactly one yard.
Of all the causes for concern in the Bears’ 22-0 exhibition opener loss to the Broncos at Soldier Field—the deep touchdown pass given up, the safety sack allowed, the bumps and bruises —none was more disturbing than the performance of the Bears’ starting offense.
“We need to get better, and it starts with everybody, it starts with me,” said quarterback Jay Cutler, who went 3-for-4 for 18 yards. “So we’ll take a look at it, the limited amount of plays we ran.”
In all, the Bears starters gained 13 yards on 10 plays, all in the first quarter. After Jeffery’s catch on the first play, the Bears went three-and-out three-straight times.
“We didn’t execute as well as we need to,” coach John Fox said. “Or as well as we should have.”
The typical caveats apply: it’s early and, as such, new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is going to keep his play-calling as vanilla as the inside of a Creamsicle. The Bears didn’t game plan specifically for the Broncos, who blitzed and stunted more than most teams do in Week 1 of the preseason.
But there were legitimate reasons for concern. Their new offensive line — Ted Larsen started at center for the out-for-the-season Hroniss Grasu —didn’t protect Cutler, allowing two sacks. Both came on third down, with the first leaving the Bears quarterback visibly frustrated.
The defending Super Bowl champs didn’t dress either Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware; fellow outside linebacker Shane Ray shared Cutler’s first sack with lineman Derek Wolfe. Safety T.J. Ward went unblocked on his sack of Cutler on third and 9.
Even though Cutler said his transition to Larsen was “smooth,” clean shots on the quarterback are frightening at any time of year. The Broncos had seven sacks on the game.
Guard Kyle Long said it “wasn’t very pretty,” nor was it a lost cause.
“I wouldn’t say anything’s ruined, by any means,” he said.
Starter Jeremy Langford ran for no gain twice, totaling four carries for seven yards. Even Kevin White’s dynamism was bottled up;the receivercaught a screen left on the Bears’ second play of the game, but gained only three yards in his first-ever time in the a game uniform.
Rookie Cody Whitehair played his first game, too, starting at left guard and struggling in a brief second-quarter stint at center. He was whistled for holding and hands to the face on the same drive.
After fans spent the offseason imagining life with Jeffery and White on the field at the same time —and trying to fathom it without running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett —Thursday night’s three possessions left little to be excited about. And Loggains a lot more to prove.
Jeffery starting should have been a spark, too. After choosing to train on his own rather than with his teammates in the offseason, he left practice Aug. 3 with a mild hamstring strain. He lobbied for play Thursday.
“I was feeling good,” Jeffery said. “And, plus, I missed all preseason last year. So just getting time down with Jay and jelling with the offense.”
That Jeffery fought to play said a lot, Cutler said.
“He has an energy,” he said. “He has something about him this year, which is exciting for us.”
The preseason opener, though, was not. White knew what to do with it.
“Watch film,” White said. “And get over it.”