OAKLAND, Calif. — The preseason does not mask the fact the Raiders will be dreadful this season.
Mired in salary cap hell the Raiders look like they will be in the hunt for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. If the Bears can be close to as good as they looked Friday night at O.co Coliseum, they could be a factor in the NFC in coach Marc Trestman's first season.
The preseason can often be a mirage even in the third exhibition when starters get their most substantial time. But there isn't any hiding problems for the Raiders, who have a quarterback quandary after pulling starter Matt Flynn for Terrelle Pryor in the second quarter and an offensive line issue with left tackle Jared Veldheer questionable for this season after triceps surgery.
The Bears laid it on Oakland from the start in a 34-26 victory, jumping out to a 27-3 halftime lead that probably would have been bigger if Jay Cutler's targets had not betrayed him. The quarterback finished 12 of 21 for 142 yards and his stats would have been more impressive if there had not been four or five dropped passes, depending on how coaches review the film. The offense totaled 252 yards and 14 first downs.
Cutler spread the ball around from the start with Trestman mixing Matt Forte run calls with passes to targets other than Brandon Marshall. Alshon Jeffery had seven receptions for 77 yards in the first half. He showed good balance on the dirt infield when he spun away from cornerback D.J. Hayden, a first-round draft pick, for a 22-yard gain on Cutler's first throw. On the next play, Cutler targeted tight end Martellus Bennett for the first time in exhibitions for a 16-yard pickup.
"It was a good outing for everybody," Cutler said. "But it is preseason. Can't get caught up in that. We start off the season 0-0 like everybody else. We have to get back to work next week. We can't get too high on this game. We made some mistakes. We need to go back and look at them. But it's a good barometer of where we're at and where we have to go."
But Bennett had two balls go off his hands, Marshall had a drop and tight end Fendi Onobun dropped a ball with no defender around him. Cutler was 6 of 9 passing for 85 yards in the first quarter and the three incompletions went off the hands of receivers.
Cutler dismissed the idea that spreading the ball around was an issue after the first two exhibitions after he and Marshall were a two-man passing game last season. He targeted six receivers in the first quarter, making a swing pass to Forte for a 32-yard touchdown as Jeffery and Bennett made key blocks to spring him.
Forte had six carries for 76 yards, gaining 35 on a run around the left end when tight end Steve Maneri made a nice block. He now has 149 yards on 15 carries and looks primed for a big season, as expected in Trestman's scheme.
"He's getting more and more comfortable with the running lanes and the blocking schemes," Cutler said. "I think Marc is doing a great job of getting him outside and finding nifty ways to get him touches outside the box."
Michael Bush scored touchdowns on runs of 1 and 10 yards against his former team.
Wide receiver Marquess Wilson, the seventh-round pick from Washington State, gained separation from veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins to make a 14-yard gain in time with the starters, an indication he's getting a hard look with cuts looming.
The defense shined too as Tim Jennings and emerging nickel cornerback Isaiah Frey intercepted Flynn, who finished 3 of 6 for 19 yards. Cornerback Charles Tillman, who has three career sacks in regular season, picked one up when he blindsided Flynn. Rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic showed off his agility in the open field when he pinned in Pryor on an attempted run. Strong-side linebacker James Anderson was credited with a game-high six tackles through the first half.
Defensive end Julius Peppers started and came out quickly as a precaution, getting just enough work to be prepared for the Sept. 8 opener against the Bengals.
The Bears are going to be hard-pressed to find an opponent as undermanned as the Raiders in the regular season. But that doesn't mean you can take anything away from them after what was a dominating outing from the starters.