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Mess Rehearsal: Bears falter big time vs. the Bengals

CINCINNATI — The final score wasn’t as bad as last year’s thrashing by the Seahawks in the third preseason game. But the Bears starters’ dress rehearsal against the Bengals still was disheartening.

From a growing list of injured players to a sluggish, unproductive offense to breakdowns on defense, little looked good for the Bears in a 21-10 loss Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium.

There just seems to be plenty to right before the Bears host the Packers in Week 1:

>> The team’s starting offense hasn’t scored a touchdown this preseason. It’s best drive against the Bengals went 54 yards in nine plays during the final two minutes of the first half. It was capped by a 34-yard field goal by Robbie Gould with six seconds remaining.

In 12 possessions this preseason, the Bears’ No. 1 offense has scored 15 points.

“Offensively, we’ve got a lot of room to improve,” quarterback Jay Cutler said.

>> The team’s depleted offense played like it. Coach John Fox said the run game struggled, and reserve receivers Josh Bellamy, Rashad Lawrence and Marc Mariani didn’t provide Cutler with many good looks in six possessions.

Cutler didn’t force any throws and finished 13-for-17 for 98 yards. His longest completion was a 16-yarder to Lawrence.

“The good news is that we haven’t turned it over a bunch,” Fox said. “I think Jay’s been efficient.”

>> The Bears have a real issue at right tackle. Second-year tackle Charles Leno started his second consecutive preseason game, but continued to struggle.

Leno was beaten on an inside move by defensive end Charles Dunlap for a 10-yard sack in the second quarter. He was later called for holding defensive end Margus Hunt, which negated a four-yard run by running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

“We gave Leno a good shot with the1s tonight,” Fox said. “And we’ll evaluate it.”

Mills didn’t do much better with the second-team offense. He had holding and false-start penalties in the fourth quarter.

>> Starting inside linebackers Shea McClellin and Christian Jones both struggled in coverage. It was their toughest outing since training camp opened.

The Bengals targeted McClellin, in particular, on their first drive as tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Rex Burkhead combined for three catches for 40 yards.

In the second quarter, Jones appeared to be beaten by Eifert on a 25-yard catch from McCarron.

>> The pass rush that threatened Colts quarterback Andrew Luck last week was lacking. Andy Dalton went 6-for-6 for 52 yards on the Bengals’ 16-play, 77-yard drive on their first possession.

It could have been better for Dalton if he wasn’t hurt after scoring on a quarterback sneak. But Bengals backup A.J. McCarron was just as good.

McCarron completed all six of his passes in the second quarter for 87 yards in leading the Bengals to 14 points. He had a 31-yard touchdown pass to receiver Marvin Jones.

“I don’t think we improved,” Fox said of his defense. “I just didn’t think we played as tight and as sharp as we did a week ago, most of that I think was on third down.”

The Bears seemed humbled by what happened against the Bengals, but still kept the loss in perspective. Fox was looking for improvements, but it still was just the preseason.

“There is always highs, there is always lows,” outside linebacker Jared Allen said. “You can learn from it, and better for it to happen now than when the games count. But it’s a learning tool.”

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