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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: August 9, 2012 11:44PM

Anxious to face anyone else, the Bears looked like they needed more time to themselves.

In the preseason opener, the Bears lost to the Denver Broncos 31-3 on Thursday night, and there were far more negatives than positives for the home team.

The Bears were sloppier and committed more penalties, drawing criticism from coach Lovie Smith.

“[I’m] not pleased in all three phases,” Smith said in comments distributed at halftime, when the Bears trailed 10-0. “I told the team [at the half], over the course we might be behind a couple of games at halftime. Let’s put that behind us, make some corrections and play better the second half.”

But the Bears didn’t.

The Broncos added two more touchdowns before Bears fourth-string quarterback Matt Blanchard led a drive that ended with a 47-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.

All told, the game was a disappointment given the excitement for the Bears’ revamped offense.

Jay Cutler and Matt Forte warmed up but didn’t play, and new star receiver Brandon Marshall played only one series, catching a four-yard pass.

“It was fun,” Marshall said. “I’m glad that I got the opportunity to come out here and knock some rust off a little bit.

“I look forward to next week against the [Washington] Redskins and get a couple more plays and hopefully move the ball a little bit more.”

With Cutler on the sideline, veteran Jason Campbell started. While he has looked strong in training camp, he didn’t shine Thursday night. When Campbell left after three series, the Bears trailed 3-0, and they had mustered only 15 yards. Campbell completed 4 of 5 passes for only 13 yards.

“We were going up against a tremendous defense,” Campbell said. “We’re not trying to do anything to really show our hand or show what we have right now. We’ve had a great training camp and we wanted to get out here and get our offense going, but they did a good job of covering us up early on.

“We’ve got to take what the defense gives us and keep competing. This is our first day out here. It’s my first time playing in 10 months, so we just have to get back going again.”

The Bears didn’t cross midfield until just inside of the two-minute warning, when rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery drew a pass-interference penalty. But the Bears drive stalled after third-string quarterback Josh McCown was sacked and couldn’t get another first down.

In the first half, there were two notable plays by the offense – and neither was particularly noteworthy. Jeffery had a nine-yard catch, shielding a backup cornerback from the ball, and Dane Sanzenbacher had the team’s longest offensive play, a 12-yard catch on a slant.

But the most promising part of the first half for the Bears was the play of first-round pick Shea McClellin, who had a sack and a pressure. McClellin showed range and speed, as he dove to sack Hanie, who was sprinting for the sideline.

In the final two minutes, though, McClellin was flagged for a blow to the head, when his helmet crashed into Hanie, as Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins was pulling the Broncos quarterback down to the ground.

McClellin got an extended look, in part, because Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers didn’t play. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher also didn’t play, giving Nick Roach a chance to fill in. He didn’t have any glaring mistakes, as the starting defense did make a big play on the opening series.

Peyton Manning marched the Broncos down the field, completing four of his first five passes for 44 yards. But as they neared the end zone, Manning’s pass to Brandon Stokley was behind the receiver, and safety Major Wright made a diving interception.

Wright, though, didn’t return to the game because of a hamstring injury.

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