By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter
11:51 PM CDT, August 22, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The last time the Bears stumbled out of here in a stupor, their quarterback had a woozy noggin' and their offensive coordinator had a place in NFL history following the most stubborn play-calling imaginable.
There was no nine-sack meltdown in one half as there was last October when the Giants humiliated the Bears while Mike Martz kept going back to the pass. Jay Cutler, who suffered a concussion 10 months ago against the same defense, went down only once in the first half Monday night as pass blocking was improved from the first preseason outing when the Bears allowed nine sacks.
Whether right guard Lance Louis and left tackle J'Marcus Webb were good enough to remain starters is a matter for film review by the coaches, but nothing was glaring in the 41-13 loss at New Meadowlands Stadium.
Webb was called for one false start but held up well against Jason Pierre-Paul a week after saying he didn't match the intensity of the Bills' Shawne Merriman, who overwhelmed him. The starting five could very well be the same for Saturday's third exhibition game at Tennessee.
"I definitely feel better," Webb said. "I had a good week of practice. Coach (Mike Tice) got after me a little bit. I gotta be a pro and step up when needed."
Cutler, who completed 12 of 21 passes for 171 yards, took notice.
"The offensive line got better," he said. "We completed some passes, we got some first downs, got the receivers involved. We need to get the running game a little bit more involved, but we made some strides.
"We've got some new parts in there, some new players and new offensive linemen. Everyone is working through it, so overall we're heading in the right direction."
It was far from a complete effort. Using Cutler for the entire first half, the Bears (1-1) managed only two Robbie Gould field goals in seven possessions with a third try — a 55-yarder — going wide right. The starting line was sent back out to open the third quarter on a drive that quickly stalled. Still, it was improvement.
The offense hit with big plays as Cutler connected with a streaking Devin Hester for a 37-yard gain. Matt Forte weaved his way across the field 42 yards on a screen on the ensuing play to set up first-and-goal from the 7-yard line, where things stalled out leading to Gould's 25-yard field goal.
A 32-yard strike from Cutler to Earl Bennett set up Gould's next kick from 42 yards. But the offense was 0-for-6 on third down and the running game never got going, although that's not a concern at this point.
Rocky Bernard went around Louis to flush Cutler out of the pocket on the sack that went to Jonathan Goff. But the Bears have been more concerned about Louis as a run-blocker. He played tight end at San Diego State and some teams considered him as a fullback. At 6-3, 325 pounds, he has good feet and the Bears want to be bigger inside to match up with their NFC North opponents.
"I think we made a couple positive steps," Louis said. "We need to keep working and get better."
Wide receiver Roy Williams remained without a catch, dropping a pass on third-and-10 for what would have been a 16-yard pickup in the first quarter.
A vanilla look from the defense was fine. Giants quarterback Eli Manning (8-for-16, 78 yards) didn't do any real damage, but second-year free safety Major Wright struggled in run support, a worry for the last line of defense. He whiffed in the open field on Brandon Jaconbs' 18-yard touchdown run that put the Giants ahead 10-3 in the second quarter, and then missed Ahmad Bradshaw on a 12-yard run up the middle.
The Giants scored 28 points against Bears' reserves, including a 97-yard touchdown run by Da'rel Scott, but many of the players on the field will be looking for work soon.
Special teams left plenty to be desired, but the 73-yard kickoff return allowed and blocked punt are mistakes you don't often see from a Dave Toub coached unit in the regular season.
None of those issues match the concern for the line, a unit that checked out OK.
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