BOURBONNAIS – For much of the first week of training camp the Bears’ defense generally held sway over the offense. No real surprise there; the defense was top-five, the offense was bottom-five in the NFL last season and the defense was in approximately the same system that Lovie Smith ran. The offense was as far from Smith’s era as it could be, with predictable early results.
But in one three-play brace from the 12-yard line on Thursday, the offense made a statement.
On first down, quarterback Jay Cutler lasered a dart to Brandon Marshall on a comeback route on the left side. Touchdown.
Matt Forte took a Cutler handoff, started right and then cut back against the grain on the second play in the series and burst through for what was a second touchdown.
On the final play of the set, Cutler stood in the pocket as receivers worked the secondary. Cutler then appeared to be throwing the ball away over the left side of the end zone, only to have it grabbed by 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett for a falling-down touchdown against overmatched safety Chris Conte.
“I thought we had a lot of explosive plays today,” said coach Marc Trestman, “and we’ve had that the last couple days.
“I always try to temper myself because until you see the tape you don’t know whether they’re legitimate because you don’t always see what’s going up in front. Julius Peppers could be making a play and he stops to let Jay make the throw. So to determine that, we see that we have the ability to have explosive plays certainly, but its 11 guys who’ve got to do their job.”
Earlier in the day, Marshall turned in one of the plays of the day by besting extremely tight coverage by Charles Tillman in a battle of Pro Bowlers, Marshall’s catch netting more than 20 yards against the No.1 defense.
Cutler then exploited a sluggish rotation by safety Major Wright and linebacker Jon Bostic to launch a pitch-and-catch TD pass of 40 yards to tight end Fendi Onobun, another 6-foot-6 target in this offense.
NFL officials were on hand for their annual rules sessions with players as well as working practice. That evened the playing field, in the mind of one receiver.
“It was awesome, man,” Marshall said. “Me and Peanut [Tillman] got into it the other day ‘cause he was holding – you know, we’re tired of that. So for the refs to be able out here holding them accountable, it felt good. I guess that’s why you saw some big plays.”