Marquess Wilson shows what Bears’ offense can do
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter August 10, 2013 8:14PM
Marquess Wilson turned a short pass into a 58-yard gain that led to a touchdown. | AP
Updated: September 12, 2013 6:54AM
The Bears’ preseason opener confirmed one thing about rookie wide receiver Marquess Wilson: When he gets the ball, he knows what to do with it.
Wilson took a short pass over the middle from quarterback Matt Blanchard off a well-conceived, well-executed play and quickly turned it into a 58-yard gain in the second half of the Bears’ 24-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Friday. Michael Ford scored on a four-yard run on the next play.
‘‘It’s just football,’’ the 20-year-old Wilson said. ‘‘As a receiver, you’re expected to make plays. That’s what the mind-set was on that play.’’
The play was a good example of what Marc Trestman’s offense is designed to do.
‘‘The way the play is [designed], the spacing and the coverage [made it work],’’ said Wilson, who led the Bears with four receptions for 82 yards (20.5 per catch). ‘‘As soon as [Blanchard] said ‘Hike,’ we knew that the ball was going to the middle of the field. So it was a good read by the quarterback and excellent blocking by the O-line to give the quarterback time.’’
‘‘It was a really neat play,’’ Blanchard said. ‘‘The back-side safety kind of overcommitted, and we hit it in that second window and Marquess just took it up the sideline and did a great job of running after the catch.’’
Linebacker James Anderson came in as the Bears’ backup to long-snapper Patrick Mannelly. But he didn’t think he’d be called on in his first game as a Bear.
‘‘I thought they were joking,’’ Anderson said about replacing Mannelly, who suffered a rib injury in the first half. ‘‘I said, ‘No. Y’all are playing [around].’ And they said, ‘No. James, you really have to snap.’’
Anderson snapped for three punts and an extra point without incident.
‘‘Just throw it back there and pray,’’ Anderson said of his strategy. ‘‘I’m not quite sure I was ready for it to happen [Friday night]. But we got through it.’’
With Mannelly expected to miss some time, the Bears reached a deal with long-snapper Brandon Hartson, according to his agent. Nickel back Kelvin Hayden (torn hamstring) was put on injured reserve to make room.
Guard Kyle Long, the Bears’ first-round draft pick, has high expectations for himself this season. But his first impression of his first NFL game was that he was happy to be out there.
‘‘It was unbelieveable, man,’’ Long said. ‘‘I was wearing an NFL jersey tonight, playing in the NFL. Pretty unbelieveable.’’
Long said he was pleased with his play, particularly his pass protection.
He credited his teammates, particularly center Taylor Boggs, with helping him make some progress.
‘‘I didn’t come in with a wealth of knowledge in regards to pass protection and where my help’s coming from,’’ Long said. ‘‘Boggs did a great job helping me out, confirming that if I had a three-technique and I’m sliding out, I know he’s coming with me. I don’t have to worry so much about getting beat inside because I know I have center help.’’
Blanchard bounces back
Third-string quarterback Matt Blanchard struggled through protection issues and one big mistake to post a respectable 88.4 passer rating in second-half duty against the Panthers.
Blanchard was sacked five times. He fumbled on one of them, but rookie tackle Jordan Mills recovered at the Bears’ 2-yard line. He also threw an interception that cornerback Josh Norman returned 60 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers a 21-10 lead in the third quarter.
But Blanchard was 15-for-18 for 194 yards. Had Wilson completed a 62-yard touchdown pass instead of stepping out of bounds at the 4, Blanchard’s rating would have been 107.9. Blanchard also scrambled four times for a team-high 26 yards rushing.
‘‘I definitely felt more comfortable [than last preseason],’’ said Blanchard, who was 13-for-15 for 175 yards after the interception. ‘‘Unfortunately we had the pick-six. Anytime it’s a pick-six, it’s always on the quarterback. I had a little adversity thrown my way. It was good we stepped back on the field and that group got six points and got us back in it.’’
The Bears were called for six penalties against the Panthers, not an abnormally high number for a team adjusting to a new coaching staff. They had no false-start infractions. In Lovie Smith’s first preseason game in 2004, the Bears were called for 20 penalties, 10 on the offensive line.