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Bears’ timing was perfect against Raiders

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes against OaklRaiders during first quarter an NFL preseasfootball game OaklCalif. Friday Aug. 23

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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Updated: September 26, 2013 6:56AM



OAKLAND, Calif. — Are the Bears that good, or are the Oakland Raiders that bad?

Therein lies the difficulty in discerning the value of impressive performances by the Bears’ first-team offense and defense in their 34-26 victory against the Raiders in their third preseason game Friday.

Jay Cutler was 12-for-21 for 142 yards and a touchdown, wasn’t sacked and didn’t throw an interception. Matt Forte scored on a 32-yard reception on a swing pass, then had a 35-yard run to set up another touchdown. Alshon Jeffery had seven catches for 77 yards.
Michael Bush scored two touchowns.

On defense, Tim Jennings and Isaiah Frey had interceptions, and Charles Tillman had a sack. The Bears outgained the Raiders 252 yards to 47 in building a 27-0 lead. The Bears’ first-teamers committed no turnovers and had three takeaways.

But the common denominator in all that success is that it came against a team that is struggling to get on its feet. The Raiders were 4-12 last season. They haven’t won more than eight games in a season since 2002, when they went to the Super Bowl with Marc Trestman as their offensive coordinator.

As Trestman put it after the game: ‘‘It’s 30 minutes on a Friday night in August. We’ve got a long way to go. I think our guys are
mature enough to have that perspective.’’

That, they are. The Bears were feeling pretty good about themselves after the game. But this is a team that has missed the playoffs five times in the last six seasons. Nobody’s going to get carried away.

‘‘It was a good outing for every-
body — special teams, offense,
defense in the first half — but it is preseason,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘You can’t get caught up in that. We’ll start the season 0-0, like everybody else.

‘‘I don’t think you can get too high on this game. Obviously, we made some mistakes. We can go back and look at them, but it’s a good barometer of where we’re at and where we can go.’’

Forte said he is ready for the regular season to begin and doesn’t need to play in the preseason finale Thursday against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field. Jennings went a step further.

‘‘I think I’m ready [for the regular season],’’ Jennings said. ‘‘This whole defense is ready. The offense is ready. The whole team is ready. But the good thing is, we’ve got another week to get better. I don’t know [how much the starters will play against the Browns], but we have another week to get better, and that’s the mind-set we’re going to [take] into this game.’’

On the other hand, Forte said
the Bears shouldn’t be too surprised by the efficiency of their
offense against the Raiders.

‘‘We’ve got to expect to come out and play like that every game,’’ Forte said. ‘‘Just because we had a couple of big plays and a couple of nice runs, the offense gets all out of control, like we’ve arrived as an
offense. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m just looking forward to getting better every week.’’

If one aspect of the Bears’ success was universal, it was the
timing of their key plays. The Bears made plays when they needed them most.

† When the Raiders had a second-
and-one at the Bears’ 45 on their first possession after back-to-back plays of 15 and nine yards, linebacker Jon Bostic, aided by pressure from tackle Stephen Paea, stopped Rashad Jennings for a one-yard loss. On third down, linebacker Lance Briggs and safety Major Wright stopped Jennings one yard short of a first down on a pass play to force a punt.

† After Jacoby Ford returned a kickoff 62 yards to the Bears’ 38, Tillman sacked Matt Flynn for a seven-yard loss on first down with a cornerback blitz, leadng to a missed 49-yard field goal by
Sebastian Janikowski.

† On third-and-10 from the Bears’ 35, Cutler escaped pressure and scrambled for 13 yards and a first down, even sliding to avoid getting hit. It led to Bush’s one-yard touchdown run that gave the Bears a 24-0 lead.

As the Bears know all too well, timing is everything — whether it’s a sack, a turnover, a penalty or a drop. In the second quarter, rookie right tackle Jordan Mills was called for the first false-start by the Bears’ first-team offense in the preseason, but the team was leading 24-0 at the time. False starts were much more painful last season.

But until further notice,
nobody knows just how real
Friday was.

‘‘It’s so hard to tell until you get into that first game,’’ safety Chris Conte said. ‘‘The good thing is, we’re doing well and there aren’t a lot of negative issues we’re worried about.

‘‘It’s all pretty positive at this point. I think we’re getting better. I know we have tons of talent, and we can be a great team. But it’s really hard to say exactly how good [we are].’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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