Bears: Palmer leads comeback win but No. 2 QB battle not over

Bears: Palmer leads comeback win but No. 2 QB battle not over
August 15, 2014, 1:15 am
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The overall is arguably as good as it has been through any two preseason games in recent memory: Four Bears quarterbacks have a combined passer rating of 100.0, the top three each have had moments of excellence, and three of the four are completing more than 70 percent of their passes, with Jimmy Clausen at “only” 64.3 percent.

But as far as Clausen and Jordan Palmer separating themselves for an easy decision on Jay Cutler’s No. 2…check back later. As many as five full preseason quarters remain to be played by others than Cutler – assuming one next Friday in Seattle and four in the preseason wrap-up at Cleveland – and coaches prefer to let players make their own decisions.

“Those guys are both playing well, battling,” Cutler said. “It’s probably going to come down to the last preseason game…. I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision."

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On the balance sheet after Thursday’s 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that left the Bears 2-0 in preseason for the first time since 2007:

Palmer got the Bears offense into the end zone, twice in the fourth quarter. Clausen didn’t in the better part of two quarters, although Clausen had to deal with a malfunctioning headset for a handful of plays. Clausen threw an interception. Palmer didn’t.

Coach Marc Trestman complimented both Clausen and Palmer but also seemed to offer explanations for Clausen slip-ups, including his one interception.

“I would say up to a half-dozen plays when Jimmy was in there, it was very difficult to evaluate,” Trestman said. “You never want to throw a pick but that was a play that he didn’t get [from the sideline] so to make that part of the evaluation…I think it’s best to look at the tape but I saw him make some very good throws as well.”

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Most significantly perhaps, Palmer brought the Bears from behind with a final drive covering 86 yards and ending with a five-yard run by Senorise Perry for the winning points with 50 seconds remaining.

That said, Clausen brought the Bears back from a 28-17 deficit to a 31-28 lead last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Maybe the secret is playing against third-stringers, even with third-stringers. Clausen did that last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. This time it was Palmer’s turn.

Palmer entered to start the fourth quarter with the Bears trailing 19-7 and led the offense to scores in two of its three possessions with 6-of-9 passing for 73 yards and zero turnovers in his 21 snaps.

Clausen had 22 snaps last week against Philadelphia and produced emphatically, with two touchdown throws and 7-for-13 passing that netted a rating of 134.6. Against the Jaguars, Clausen completed 11 of 15 passes for 94 yards but wasn’t able to get the offense into the end zone and managed a rating of just 61.5 because of an interception, a pass that was tipped by leaping rookie linebacker Telvin Smith.

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Clausen relieved starter Jay Cutler midway through the second quarter after two possessions. Cutler and the No. 1 offense needed the time, not surprising after a first quarter with zero rushing and eight passing yards and zero points. That changed abruptly when Cutler directed a touchdown drive of 10 plays and 85 yards that finished with a four-yard scoring pass to Brandon Marshall.

Coaches stayed with the No. 1 offensive line (with Michael Ola for injured right tackle Jordan Mills) for Clausen, with Shaun Draughns in for Matt Forte at running back and all of the starting pass catchers replaced.

“It was more about just taking Jay out,” Trestman said. “We had known going in that we were probably going to leave the line out there another series; we just wanted to give them a little more work, so that was planned.”