Well we won the game which is a good thing or bad thing depending on how you view the pre-season. It is really hard to be dogmatic on how a team will fare throughout the year based on the pre-season, but I will try to make some observations.
I was impressed with how our offense was performing at first. We were driving and as WCG noted we will miss Jones breakaway speed, but Benson is proving himself serviceable to us. He is running and hitting 2-4 yards at a time, but he is looking so versatile with his ability to receive passes. He didn't finish with flashy stats (10 carries for 24 yards averaging 2.4 and his longest being 6), but I really like the dimension that Benson brings to the offense I think that as he gets more comfortable he will get even better.
Our offense was balanced and the running and passing game was moving along. I am excited to see Berrian getting passes in different contexts (27 from Grossman and a TD from Griese), he finished with 4 receptions for 49 yards averaging 12.3 a catch. In the second series all we saw was Benson with a 3 yard catch and a 2 yard run before the INT. Now, regarding Grossman getting stripped, I really don't fault him for that. If you saw the play Mathis really made a good reach and poked it out. Grossman couldn't see it coming. It came from Fred Miller's side and I think he should have been better protected. As I was talking about the play with my dad and how happy I was to see Adewale Ogunleye sack Manning and then Grossman threw the pick. It was an obvious misread coupled with a throw that Grossman tried to force in there (he later admitted to forcing it). In my opinion he really can't be held completely at fault for the strip, but he needs to be more careful and stop trying to force balls in there, especially on a drag route across the middle where it is easy for defenders to jump a route. He has to show more discernment there.
Coming off the INT the Colts had great position to make a first strike, and Manning looked poised to make a statement after he threaded in a pass to Harrison in between Tillman and Urlacher. On the following three plays they ran the ball for 1 yard and Briggs made a clutch stop. The following two plays were stopped by Adewale and the final attempt on 4th and 1 by manning was broken up by my guy Hunter Hillenmeyer at the goal line. I know that the offense had a rough start, but after those woes we had a good show by the Special Teams and our Defense. I loved the goal line stand, and I am really becoming impressed with how Ogunleye is making his presence felt on the field. I know it is limited play, but he had a big sack and two stops in a critical situation.
Following that great defensive stand we saw the offensive falter again. Benson was doing his job at that point age getting yards, but 3 yards at a time won't always cut it. Grossman didn't help anymore with his frightening repeat of his mistakes from the Superbowl (again I will address later). Following this forsaken drive we punted and watched Manning march his team to the endzone by the first play of the second quarter. There will be times when Peyton is on and can't really be stopped with his passing abilities and weapons to chose from, but I wasn't too happy with the defense allowing Addai to walk into the endzone. I really can't infer to much from it, for all I know they were upset that they had to be back out there again and just wanted to get off the field. I don't expect it to be a big problem.
At this point in the game Manning put on the sideline hat and didn't come back in. The Bears left Grossman and the starters it, in my opinion, to give him a chance to gain some confidence after his ill-fated first quarter performance. Before that however, the Colts almost pulled a fast one on us with the fake onside and, ohh boy was that a near perfect storm. They placed that ball in the perfect position, and Giordano was just a little bit off in getting the ball. Following that trick they kicked the ball directly to D. Manning, and apparently Hester is rubbing off on some of the other players because Manning bolted for a 72 yard return ensuring a FG for the team if nothing else. The offense couldn't get anything done and settled for a FG from Gould.
Following the FG our defense looked possessed the way they were breaking through the Colts O line for a behind the line tackle of the RB and a loss of 3 yards by Ogunleye and Darwin Walker. After that Idonije and Garay teamed up for a sack and introduced Jim Sorgi to the turf for a loss of 6 yards.
After that Hester lined up for punt reception (I like him in this role) and I said out loud "wouldn't it be funny if they kicked it to him after Manning's return," but they did. Had it not been for Hester going so fast that he tripped over the legs of his blocker (I believe it was Brandon Rideau) a spectacular 50 yard return would have been a spectacular 74 yard TD return, but we can't complain too much now can we.
On the next offensive series Grossman went to Jason McKie for 4 yards and then the other side to Berrian for the first. Then we got a great break when the Colts committed Passer Interference on Muhammad, and that play brought us to the one. However then we saw another dropped snap by Grossman (or at least some did, my ESPN connection cut out right before the play and didn't come back on until everyone was piled on the ball. I didn't get to see what happened), but he soon redeemed himself with the sneak on the next play.
Aside from the mis-snap our Offense got it done. After that our ST made a great play when Ricky Manning Jr. stripped the Colts return man and Mike Hass recovered the ball to put us in great position again. The second team came out and got it done in four plays. Brian Griese continues to give the talking head something to talk about with his play hitting Devin Hester for a 13 yard strike and setting up a picture perfect pass to Berrian in between two Colt defenders for the TD. I really like the play of our receivers as of late and I think that Hester is going to be a big addition for us, and this is before we see them blow the lid off of the secret Hester playbook that is locked up in Halas Hall.
All in all, we wrapped up the game at that point and never really looked back. Aside from what we saw from the first team Garrett Wolfe continues to show some flashes while throwing up a serviceable 3.5 average while running 8 for 28. He had one impressive run for 14 yards, and it seems that Wolfe and Hester will provide break away speed for the offense coming out of the backfield. John Gilmore made two catches for 9 yards each. I have really liked this guy since last year and I like his ability to get his hands on the ball.
The only real battle for a roster spot is happening on the offense in between Brandon Rideau and Mike Hass to act as a ST guy and 6th receiver. It was obvious that they were trying to get both guys the ball towards the end of the game. They both made great catches with Rideau grabbing 2 for 44 yards, and Mike Hass getting 2 for 48. I can't imagine how hard it is to pick in between the two guys as they both play well and appear to have bright futures ahead of them. If a gun was held to my head I would give the nod to Hass. He made an AMAZING catch over a defender that was deflected for a solid gain and had the heads up fumble recovery in the first quarter. He seems to be a play maker and a team can never have too many of those. Aside from the performance Rideau did something to his ankle in the third quarter. The Bears staff is being mum about the extent of it, but there is a chance it could affect his status with the team.
In other rookie news, Dan Bazuin made his first appearance as a bear and recorded 3 tackles. Didn't see anything special from him, but I am glad that he is getting valuable playing time and making tackles. Michael Okwo played and made one tackle and really didn't show us much. Trumaine McBride didn't play in the game apparently he is nursing his ankle or was just given rest. 5th round picks Corey Graham and Kevin Payne made interceptions with Payne having the more impressive of the two. I am very happy to see them making plays as I know Chris Harris was traded because of their elevated play in camp. I give kudos to Jerry Angelo for appearing to pick good guys in the late rounds yet again.
Mark Bradely sat out this week and Tommie Harris was again rested. The Harris thing somewhat concerns me because he has been so adamant in interviews about being 100%. Granted, this could just be the coaching staff taking precautions and giving him more time before his debut with this years squad, but I really want him to get some time under his belt before our first game against the Chargers, we NEED him for that game and for the season in general. I think he is fine and confident, but that the coaching staff is just being extra careful.
All in all it was a bittersweet game. I was thrilled and excited to watch the defense and the ST, and even with the offensive I was excited some, but I wasn't too happy with the overall performance. I love Rex and I have defended him before, but he made another mental error in trying to force a ball in and just messed up the snaps. In his interview he said that he tried to force the ball in and I respect him for saying that. However, with the snaps he blamed them on a misread of the count (stupid, but ok), and then he blamed the second for sweat being on his hand. Listen I know that this stuff happens but I would have rather him said that he made a mistake and needs to fix it and not blame it on sweaty hands. I was way more disappointed in his response then I was with his performance on the field. I think that he will bounce back from this just fine and I would rather it happen in the pre-season, but I just don't want him making excuses. That is all that I ask.
Overall I am happy to see the team play and win, even if it is in the pre-season. I get absolutely jacked up when I see our ST and Defense make plays and I expect them to every time I watch. I can only hope that in the next couple of weeks I come to expect the same from our Offense. Finally, don't throw Rex under the bus yet, its just the pre-season.