The Washington Redskins are a floundering organization with a hungry, desperate fanbase, placing all their hopes in the arms and legs of the RG-III propaganda machine. The Chicago Bears, however, are a budding juggernaut, an army with all its tanks in a row, anxiously awaiting a declaration of war on the rest of the National Football League.
With General Jay Cutler back at the helm after the birth of his son, this Bears army vanquished their training exercise combatants from our nation’s capitol, 33-31 on a 57 yard field goal from the “Gould Standard”, Robbie Gould, with under a minute remaining before a raucous crowd at Soldier Field Saturday night.
The final score seemed instantly revisionist though, as the Bears’ starters utterly eviscerated the Redskins’ starters on both ends of the ball in the first quarter-and-a-half. Cutler turned the game over to Jason Campbell with a secure 17-3 lead after engineering a masterful, brutally efficient 6 play, 82 yard drive on a the Bears’ opening possession.
Cutler began the drive with a seemingly effortless heave off his back foot to a wide open Brandon Marshall for a 41 yard gain. The play not only set the stage for the dominant action to follow, but felt like an ominous warning to the rest of the NFL.
Bandon Marshall is a Chicago Bear now. Alshon Jeffrey, Chicago Bear. Jay Cutler, yep, still a Bear. For a fan base starved of an explosive passing game since the golden age of Sid Luckman , the countdown to the September 9th season opener in Indianapolis feels like Advent. I might have to treat myself to a piece of candy pulled off a calendar once a day, just to curb my electric anticipation.
Offensively, the total upgrade to the wide receiving corps was the clear catalyst for the Bears’ hot start. Brandon Marshall reeled in 2 catches for 61 yards, both on the Bears opening drive. Alshon Jeffrey continued to prove that the wizard who drafted him, Phil Emery, is the right man for the job, nabbing 3 receptions for 62 yards, including a perfect post route down to the 1 yard line that set up the first of Michael Bush’s 2 touchdown runs. Cutler finished 7-13 for 122 yards before departing in the 2nd quarter.
Julius Peppers and the starting defense, even sans-Urlacher, relentlessly hounded and pounded RG-III, leaving one to speculate why the Redskins didn’t invest in an offensive line capable of pass blocking, with their first 3 picks, and still draft Kirk Cousins out of Michigan State in the 4th round. Cousins led the Redskins on a mammoth three-touchdown comeback, and a brief lead of 31-30, finishing 18-for-23 with 260 yards and 3 touchdown passes.
Cousins was granted the esteemed privilege of not having to square off against the Bears prodigious first-string defense, but he was playing with receivers simply trying to make the team, and looked like a much better fit for the Shanahan system.
RG-III went 5-for-8 with 49 yards passing, ran for 17 yards on 3 carries, and relinquished a costly turnover in the 1st quarter, failing to protect the ball while trying to escape a blitz. Israel Idonije clubbed the ball out of RG-III’s throwing hand from behind, Julius Peppers hurled himself on top of it, and the Bears landed a ready-made-scoring opportunity at the Redskins’ 7 yard line, which they converted into Michael Bush’s second touchdown run of the game.
Jason Campbell improved on his sluggish performance from the Denver game, finishing 9-for-15 for 141 yards and engineering a successful drive for a Robbie Gould field goal late in the first half, to give the Bears a 20-10 halftime lead.
Although the Bears yielded a 91 yard punt return touchdown to Brandon Banks that brought the Redskins to within 17-10 in the 2nd quarter, the Bears still managed to dwarf the Redskins in their special teams output.
Lorenzo Booker embarrassed the Redskins special teams coverage on his thrilling 105 yard return of the 2nd half kickoff to extend Chicago’s lead to 27-10. Eric Weems debuted with several fine returns of his own.
Robbie Gould went 4 for 4 on field goals, including his dramatic-for-the-preseason 57 yard game winner, which knuckled triumphantly over the goal posts to ensure that the Bears wouldn’t end this tune-up with a bad taste in their mouth.
The Bears have very few negatives to take away from their performance, as the starters on both sides of the ball, the team we will really be seeing throughout the season (barring a repeat of 2011’s catastrophic injuries), completely dominated a Redskins squad that may have too much hope invested in one man. True championship caliber teams are complete units. Armies. The 2012 Chicago Bears look ready for war.