When FOX TV NFL Insider Jay Glazer visited Bourbonnais as part of his recent North American tour of training camps, he offered a surprising assessment of the Bears and one other team. The two teams that had impressed him with the combination of what they had in place and what they had added were the Denver Broncos, who made multiple top-shelf additions on defense (Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, DeMarcus Ware), and the Bears, who made multiple top-shelf additions as well (Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Jeremiah Ratliff re-signed from day one).
“Elite” has eluded the Bears for most of the last decade, but now comes a chance to make something of a statement toward playing up to that critique.
It comes in the form of the third preseason game, which is still “preseason” obviously, but this one is against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, on the road in one of the most difficult NFL venues. It is the game in which Bears' and Seahawks' starters will play the longest of the preseason, meaning that the Bears’ “elite” No. 1 offense will be on the field against the reigning No. 1 defense in the NFL, the one that annihilated the other of Glazer’s “elite” teams – Denver – in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Predictably, no greater significance is being accorded publicly to this game than any other.
“We don't look at it as any more than ‘it' a game to get ourselves better,’” said coach Marc Trestman. “The environment's going to help us; we look at it as an opportunity to help us. I'm sure Pete [Carroll, Seattle coach] would say that they won the world championship last year and they're working themselves to try to become the team they need to become this year. But that's their side of it.”
Third preseason games against top opponents can be indicators. The Bears faced the Super Bowl champion Giants in 2012’s No. 3 game, defeated them and went on to a 10-6 season, albeit missing the playoffs.
Of course they also can mean absolutely nothing. The 2006 Bears shrugged off a 14-9 loss to Arizona and went to the Super Bowl.
Through two preseason games the Bears’ No. 1 offense has been on the field four series, two each against Philadelphia and Jacksonville. The unit scored a touchdown against each, both times on its second possession, both times after a three-and-done first possession.
Seattle lost to Denver in its preseason opener with starters - not all of them - playing just the first quarter, although quarterbacks Peyton Manning (22 snaps) and Russell Wilson (22) each played two series and each scored once.
As far as giving the Bears’ wannabe-elite defense a proving ground, Seattle scored on all seven of its possessions that didn’t end a half in a mauling of San Diego.
Preseason games are generally most useful for making a handful of personnel decisions. They can also be shakedown tests for established units (Bears offense) and still-forming units (Bears defense, special teams).
The Seattle Seahawks on Friday night are one of those tests.
“We're going there to play a preseason game to continue to build our football team and we're working on it one day at a time just here getting better,” Trestman said. “We're not focused on the game; we're focused on getting better and we recognize that it's still training camp, but we're also preparing to be in that environment and be at our best, and we're going to try to do both during the course of the week.”