CHICAGO – At precisely 7:17 p.m. Friday, the Bears engaged in time travel.
It was early in the first quarter, and quarterback Jay Cutler was furious as he stomped toward the sideline. As cameras watched, Cutler screamed and gestured at teammate Kellen Davis for running a bad route on a play gone awry.
The scene looked as if it were an exact replay out of fall 2011.
All of a sudden, Lance Armstrong still owned seven Tour de France titles.
Rod Blagojevich jogged around his North Side neighborhood as a free man.
Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian were just a couple of kids in love.
Make it stop. Please!
That was a far too common refrain during the meaningful parts of the Bears’ 20-17 preseason win against the New York Giants on Friday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. In the annual dress rehearsal for the regular season, an assortment of bad flashbacks spoiled any highlights the second- and third-string Bears were able to muster late in the game.
Yes, it’s the preseason, and records mean absolutely nothing.
Yes, the Bears were playing the defending Super Bowl champions in front of a hostile crowd.
But no, those facts don’t excuse the Bears’ starters for their sloppiness.
Dumb penalties, missed blocks and the complete lack of a running game plagued the Bears during a dismal first half that ended with the Giants on top, 17-7. The Bears moved the ball better to start the second half, but that came after Lovie Smith left his starters in to play against the Giants’ reserves.
If you were looking for inspiration, you would have had to change the channel. Not that I checked or anything, but rumor has it that “Go, Diego, Go!” was on Nick Jr.
Those who stayed tuned to the Bears’ starters probably had a subpar start to the weekend.
Before the first practice of training camp, Bears coaches said they were eager to see whether J’Marcus Webb or Chris Williams would step forward to win the job as the starting left tackle. One month later, it would be inaccurate to write that either player has won the job. Instead, whoever is named starter will be the lesser loser.
Webb started against the Giants and quickly drew criticism from CBS color analyst Dan Dierdorf, a six-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman. Webb watched as Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora easily slipped past him and stuffed Matt Forte for a 2-yard loss in the Bears’ backfield.
“That is a MAJOR error by Webb!” Dierdorf said in exasperation.
In came Williams, who looked no better in his audition with the first team. Like Webb, he let Umenyiora rush past him to flush Cutler out of the pocket and force a throwaway pass on third down. Moments later, the Giants blocked a punt.
It was one of those days for the Bears’ starters.
The Bears have to make sure that it doesn’t become one of those seasons. I don’t believe it will, but dud performances such as Friday’s allow for some hesitation.
Offseason acquisitions such as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are exciting, but they mean nothing if the Bears cannot block. Forte carried the ball eight times for 4 yards against the Giants’ starters in the first half, while Cutler completed nine of 21 passes for 96 yards.
Despite a touchdown pass to Marshall, Cutler acknowledged a rocky performance.
“We were just a little bit off tonight,” Cutler said during a sideline interview with CBS in the third quarter. “Our communication was lacking. We missed some stuff we should have hit. We left a few plays out there.”
Get it out of your system now, Bears.
The regular season opener is two weeks from Sunday.
• Tom Musick covers Chicago professional sports for Shaw Media. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.