Thursday night is traditionally Ladies’ Night in bars and clubs across our great nation. It’s a clever ploy to lure men eager for female companionship, if only for a night, to these fine establishments. But sometimes you show up, ready to rock, and it’s all dudes and sea donkeys, and you wonder why you came. That is exactly how I felt watching the Bears’ preseason opener against Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.
The Broncos obliterated the Bears 31-3 in a cumbersome, lopsided affair that made me question why I didn’t try my luck at the bar instead. The Broncos outgained the Bears, 338 yards to 112, and registered 6 sacks on the Bears supposedly-improved offensive line. The Bears trailed 10-0 at halftime, netting only 41 yards from scrimmage, and saw their deficit balloon to 24-0 late in the 3rd quarter, before fourth string quarterback Matt Blanchard led a drive which resulted in Robbie Gould’s 47-yard field goal.
The biggest draw for Bears fan, the on-field reunion of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, never materialized. Coach Lovie Smith gave Cutler the night off after his fiancé Kristin Cavallari, gave birth to their son, Camden Cutler. Jason Campbell got the start in Cutler’s place, his first field action in 10 months. Campbell delivered a pedestrian performance, going 4 for 5 with 13 yards before giving way to third-stringer Josh McCown.
Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall sat out, joining Cutler on the sidelines and leaving the Bears without their top three offensive weapons. This, paired with Lovie Smith’s vanilla approach to preseason games, left little room for excitement. However, the Bears defense atoned for the offense’s sluggishness, despite missing iconic linebacker Brian Urlacher, and intimidating defensive end Julius Peppers. The Bears’ D limited the Broncos to a respectable 10 points and 177 yards in the first half, and Major Wright intercepted Peyton Manning in the end zone on the game’s first possession.
Top draft picks Shea Mclellin and Alshon Jeffrey showed promise for the Bears in their NFL debuts. McClellin registered a sack, and delivered strong, active pursuit of Denver quarterbacks throughout the game. Jeffrey led all Bears with 4 receptions for 35 yards, and his potent combination of size, speed, and precision was evident in his crisp routes.
But from a Bears fan perspective, the lone highlight of the night was the opportunity to serenade new Broncos backup quarterback Caleb Hanie with an unrelenting chorus of boos, after his utterly flaccid stint as Jay Cutler’s backup last season. Hanie relieved Peyton Manning midway through the 1st quarter, and finished 7-for-14 with 79 yards. Still, it’s hard to find much catharsis in a 31-3 drubbing.
The Bears had 3 turnovers, including a first quarter fumble by running back Michael Bush, starting in place of Matt Forte. But in a game that will remembered more for Peyton Manning’s return to football after a neck injury kept him out for the entire 2011 season, and on a night that saw San Diego starting back Ryan Matthews break his clavicle against the Packers, we should all be thankful that the Bears escaped without significant injuries.
So back off the ledge, Bears fans. Four touchdown deficit tune-up loss or not, this is still a bonafide Super Bowl contender.