After his offense spent Saturday afternoon taking two steps backward, one yard at time, Jay Cutler was asked why anyone should be upbeat about the unit improving.
“I don’t think,” he said, “they have any other choice.”
It can’t get much worse.
A 23-7 loss to the Chiefs at Soldier Field closed the book on the Bears’ first-team offense in a depressing fashion. The starters gained 18 first-half yards. When they came out of the locker room in the second half and marched 55 yards, Robbie Gould missed a 48-yard field goal, wide left.
Cutler completed 6-of-15 attempts for 45 yards, though Alshon Jeffery dropped two passes — included a post route the receiver suspects would have gone for an 80-yard score — and Kevin White failed to catch another.
“Come two weeks,” Jeffery said, “we’re going to be ready.”
Injuries or not, they haven’t been this month.
Frankenstein together Cutler’s three preseason starts to get the rough equivalent of a full game, and the picture doesn’t get any rosier. In 12 preseason drives, the Bears scored one touchdown, kicked one field goal and missed another. The clock ran out on one drive. The rest — eight drives — ended in punts.
Bears running backs have run 24 times for 100 yards with Cutler in the game. The quarterback has completed 17-of-31 passes for 146 yards, taken five sacks and thrown neither a touchdown nor an interception.
His 67.4 passer rating this preseason is worse than all but one game last season — the overtime loss to the 49ers.
“You know, we still have time,” said Cutler, who won’t play the fourth preseason game Thursday in Cleveland.
Time heals all weapons, he hopes. Were guard Kyle Long to return from a shoulder injury in time for Week 1, he’d transform an offensive line the quarterback said, charitably, was “good and bad” Saturday.
Tight end Zach Miller and Eddie Royal haven’t played in any exhibition games since being placed in concussion protocol Aug. 1, but have been practicing. Both coach John Fox and Cutler referenced the pass-catchers when searching for reasons for optimism.
“They’ve been out there working with the team, working on the timing,” Fox said. “I don’t think it’s real good to be banging on them that much in the preseason.”
New offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has played the exhibition season conservatively — and probably wisely so. Despite the presence of a healthier Jeffery, the Bears’ makeshift offensive line doesn’t lend itself to seven-step quarterback drops.
“Protection-wise, I don’t think we wanted to put anybody in danger back there,” Cutler said. “And there’s some stuff we don’t really wanna show.
“We know what Alshon can do with deep balls — that’s documented material out there. We know what we have there. And there’s just other things with Kevin we kinda wanted to work on. We know he can run fast.”
Knowing it and showing it, though, are two different discussions.
“We got the talent on this team,” rookie left guard Cody Whitehair said. “We’ve got the guys to do it. We’ve just gotta keep getting better every day.”