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Bears’ offense struggles in preseason loss to Broncos

Bears running back Kahlil Bell is brought down after short run first quarter Thursday. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Bears running back Kahlil Bell is brought down after a short run in the first quarter Thursday. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 11, 2012 1:44PM



The much-anticipated debut of the Bears’ revamped offense will have to wait another week.

The two top holdovers — Jay Cutler and Matt Forte — didn’t play, and the newest additions didn’t exactly sparkle.

“I think there’s a lot of high expectations on our offense,” wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. “But in the first preseason game, I don’t think we should expect fireworks.”

Bears fans, though, didn’t even get Snap-Pops in a 31-3 loss Thursday night against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field.

Veteran quarterback Jason Campbell completed four of five passes for 13 yards, and Michael Bush had only two yards on three carries and fumbled a pitch that Broncos linebacker Von Miller recovered and returned to the Bears’ 6-yard line.

The Bears’ offense had only 41 net yards in the first half and didn’t cross midfield until after the two-minute warning.

“It is the preseason, but anytime you keep score, you want to win,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “A lot of good can come out of a game like this.

“This is a great teaching tool.”

There’s plenty to correct.

The Bears had seven penalties, they failed to convert a third down on 11 attempts, they averaged a paltry 1.7 yards per run and they allowed the Broncos to convert 50 percent of their third downs (8 of 16) and 60 percent of their red-zone opportunities (3 of 5).

After his fiancée gave birth to their first child, Cutler wanted to play after warming up, Campbell said, but coach Lovie Smith decided against it because Cutler “had a lot of things going on.”

And Campbell said the goal of the offense was to “shorten everything” and work on their quick passing game.

“Just get the ball out and give guys the opportunity to hit people besides our own guys live for the first time,” Campbell said.

The starting offensive line seemingly struggled to open up running lanes. The Bears averaged only 1.4 yards per carry in the first quarter, and J’Marcus Webb and Chris Spencer gave up a sack apiece. Webb also was flagged for a false start.

The third-year offensive tackle ended up playing into the fourth quarter.

“We got a ways to go,” center Roberto Garza said. “We didn’t start the way we wanted to start. We have to do our jobs better, and we will.

“We got a lot of work ahead of us.”

Meanwhile, Marshall played only six snaps, catching one pass for four yards.

“I just wanted to catch the ball, knock the cobwebs off a little bit and build off of today,” Marshall said.

One of the bright spots was second-round pick Alshon Jeffery, who caught four passes for 35 yards and drew a pass interference. Also, first-round pick Shea McClellin had three tackles and one sack in which he flashed his speed, diving to take down former Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie.

McClellin got an extended look, in part, because Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers didn’t play.

There was national interest in the game because it was the debut of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who looked like his old self, completing four of his first five passes for 44 yards. But as the Broncos neared the end zone, Manning’s pass to Brandon Stokley was behind the receiver. Cornerback D.J. Moore tipped the ball, and safety Major Wright intercepted it.

The offense will look for some highlights next week when they face the Washington Redskins.

Marshall, for one, is looking forward to that game.

“We do expect to win anytime we touch the field, and it was kind of sloppy out there at times,” he said. “The good thing about it: It’s still the preseason, and we got time to clean it up. I look forward to next week against the Redskins and get a couple more plays and hopefully move the ball a little bit more.”



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