The good news is that three different quarterbacks threw touchdown passes Friday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. There really isn’t any bad new in that, as both Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer provided sparks in their competition to back up Jay Cutler in an offense that amassed 491 total yards and 34 points.
Cutler, who threw 13 passes, completing nine for 85 yards, posted a passer rating of 112.7 – a significant improvement over the 73.8 he wobbled to in the Bears’ 54-11 loss at Philadelphia in game 15. He completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Zach Miller in the second of his two series running the offense. His first series was a three-and-out so the decision was made to run a second.
“I figured we would get back into it and get another drive, which I’m glad we did,” Cutler said. “We were backed up a few times, overcame a few penalties so it was a good drive for us.”
Palmer was first off the bench in the order of battle, relieving Cutler after the latter finished off the second of his two possessions with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller. Palmer initially did himself no favors in his competition with Jimmy Clausen, underthrowing wide receiver Chris Williams along the right sideline and being intercepted by Eagles cornerback Nate Allen.
He avoided a lost football when center Taylor Boggs was bull-rushed into him in the second quarter. But that was followed by a poor screen pass that was thrown almost into the arms of defensive end Vinny Curry.
Palmer eventually righted himself and directed a solid drive with completions to tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Josh Morgan. The scoring drive finished with a back-shoulder throw to a leaping Miller for a 12-yard score that tied the game at 14-14 late in the second quarter.
Palmer finished his night’s work with 8-for-11 passing, picking up 104 yards and posting a passer rating of 94.5 even with the interception. The performance was not too dissimilar from what Palmer did in his one Bears preseason last year, coming in on short notice when Matt Blanchard was injured, and completing 12 of 18 passes for 116 yards, a TD and 103.0 rating against the Cleveland Browns. But he was considerably more in synch this time.
"It's definitely a different comfort level," Palmer said. "I've been running this system now for the last couple weeks, OTA's and all that. It's just about going through your progressions, getting the ball out of your hands and letting these guys make plays."
Not to be outdone, Clausen delivered a passer rating of 134.6 on 7-for-13 passing for 150 yards, two touchdowns and avoided throwing an interception.
Clausen started the second half and took a huge blindside hit on his first attempt that resulted in a roughing penalty on the Eagles. He later mishandled a shotgun snap in a possession that began at the Philadelphia 10 after a takeaway but netted just two yards.
Then Clausen appeared to settle into a strong rhythm. He dropped a perfect pass in between an Eagles safety and cornerback to wide receiver Chris Williams, producing an 82-yard touchdown completion. A possession later, he stood in against a rush, took a hit, and completed a screen pass to running back Senorise Perry for a first down, followed by a 20-yard precision sideline throw to wide receiver Michael Spurlock.
Clausen even had Cutler smiling after taking off for a 16-yard scramble and slide for a first down, followed by a 22-yard touchdown pass to Spurlock.
“Jimmy’s second touchdown pass – he went all the way through his reads,” Cutler said, impressed. “Very rarely do you get back to the backside guy, and he found him for a touchdown.”
That pass finished off an 89-yard scoring drive. Then Clausen flipped a pass to tight end Dante Rosario for the two-point conversion, all giving the Bears a 31-28 lead late in the third quarter.
For good measure, rookie David Fales completed his first NFL pass for 47 yards to wide receiver Josh Bellamy on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“There were some mistakes out there, some on [the quarterbacks’] part,” Cutler said. “There always are, some things to clean up. But the guys were really efficient, getting in and out of the huddle, getting the play called, getting to our checks, going through our reads.”