One drive, but Bears' starters leave with the lead in Seattle
The Bears improved to 2-0 in the preseason by rolling over Seattle 27-11 on Thursday.
More importantly, they recorded a first-string victory. The Bears beat Kansas City last weekend at Soldier Field, but were losing 14-0 when the starters were on the field.
Granted, Justin Fields and most of the offensive regulars played just one drive Thursday in Seattle, but it ended with the Bears ahead 3-0.
"It's a small sample size," coach Matt Eberflus said after the game. "We're talking about nine plays and a penalty, so 10 plays. I thought (Fields') operation was good, his preparation was great. He handled the offense the way we wanted him to. He had a nice drive and scored the field goal. So I think it's progress."
Overall, it was tough to make any judgments from this one. After trading quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver, the Seahawks are not expected to be playoff contenders this season. They had to make a late change at QB this week, with Geno Smith elevated to starter after Drew Lock tested positive for COVID.
Two of the Bears' higher draft picks, cornerback Kyler Gordon and receiver Velus Jones, made their preseason debuts Thursday after sitting out Game 1. It was a special night for Gordon, who grew up in the Seattle area and played at the University of Washington.
But Jones made the play of the night, returning a punt 48 yards to set up a touchdown on the Bears' third possession. Any Bears fan who remembers Devin Hester can appreciate a game-breaking special teams star. In the second half, Nsimba Webster returned a kickoff 60 yards.
"He's fast, for sure, and he's explosive," Eberflus said of Jones. "It's a challenge for him because he's a rookie. I think he's up for the challenge."
After Jones' punt return, backup QB Trevor Siemian had to move the Bears just 33 yards and connected with rookie tight end Jake Tonges for a 2-yard touchdown.
The Bears' first offensive series seemed to carry a clear goal of avoiding the pass rush. The first play was a tight end screen to Cole Kmet. There were two quick passes to the outside and a couple of bootlegs where Fields rolled to his left after a fake handoff.
The fans have been asking for rollouts and the Bears delivered on this drive.
"It feels good not having to worry about the pass-rushers and stuff like that," Fields said. "It definitely makes my job easier."
The two longest gains were passes to Kmet, for 12 yards on the screen, then a 19-yarder that set up a first down at the Seattle 21-yard line. A few plays later on third-and-four at the 15, Fields threw a quick flat pass to running back Khalil Herbert that went for a 2-yard loss. Cairo Santos nailed a 35-yard field goal for the first points of the game.
Fields went 5-for-7 for 39 yards on the opening drive, which included just one planned running play. Fields scrambled for a 1-yard gain and Seattle jumped offside on fourth-and-two near midfield.
"He does a really good job with the movement passes, the play-actions, in-pocket, out of pocket, and be able to deliver the ball," Eberflus said. "So we're excited about that."
The Bears followed through on a lineup change shown in practice this week: tackle Teven Jenkins starting at right guard instead of Michael Schofield. So the starting offensive line went Braxton Jones, Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher, Jenkins and Larry Borom from left to right.
Just before halftime, the Bears scored a special teams touchdown when Seattle punt returner Cade Johnson muffed the catch without getting hit. The ball rolled into the end zone, where Elijah Hicks fell on it for another Bears score.
Quarterback Nathan Peterman started the second half by completing three passes in a row to set up a 1-yard run by Darrynton Evans, making it 24-0.
The Bears' leading receiver was Isaiah Coulter, a third-year pro who saw action in two games for the Bears last year. Coulter finished with 3 receptions for 39 yards and probably should have had another. On third and short, Siemian faced heavy pressure and unloaded the ball quickly. The pass was ruled incomplete, but replays appeared to show Coulter snagging the ball about an inch above the turf. The Bears did not challenge the call, with Eberflus saying they didn't get a good look at the replay.
On the local front, Lake Zurich's Jack Sanborn shared the team lead in tackles with seven, while Naperville's James O'Shaughnessy made his first catch of preseason, a 16-yard gain.
There wasn't a whole lot to say about the Bears defense, even with Seattle's low point total. A false start on the Seahawks' first snap helped create a three-and-out. Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson deflected a pass on third down to force a punt on Seattle's second drive. The Seahawks missed a 47-yard field goal attempt on their third drive.
There were a few notable injuries. Linebacker Matt Adams was shaken up after making a hard tackle on Seattle's second offensive play and left with a shoulder injury. Defensive end Caleb Johnson suffered a knee injury in the second quarter, walking off the field under his own power.
Running back Trestan Ebner, a standout in the Kansas City game, limped to the sideline with an ankle injury in the second half and did not return.