The Chicago Bears came away with a 23-11 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night, and one of the biggest storylines was the play of the team's quarterbacks without two of its best receivers on the field.
Rookie wide receiver Kevin White did not play after it was announced he will miss at least the first six games of the year due to a shin injury, and Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery did not dress against Indianapolis because of a calf injury, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com:
Quarterback Jay Cutler began the game with veteran Eddie Royal, third-year man Marquess Wilson and fourth-year man Joshua Bellamy as his main wide receivers.
The Bears ran the football with Matt Forte on back-to-back plays to begin the game before deciding to push the football down the field with Cutler. Protection broke down around Cutler, but he rolled out to his right and hit Bellamy down the field on a deep throw. Unfortunately, the play was negated by a penalty called against starting right tackle Charles Leno.
Cutler hit Wilson for a nine-yard gain on the next play from scrimmage, but the Bears were forced to punt the ball away. The former Vanderbilt quarterback hit Forte for a 12-yard gain on the team's next possession, but he missed Wilson on a deep pass for his only incompletion of the game. Following the incomplete pass to Wilson, the third-year receiver came up limping with a hamstring injury:
Cutler completed his next four passes for 26 yards before picking up a first down on a 13-yard scramble to his left. He was sacked two plays later for a loss of six yards.
On the 10th play of the drive, Cutler avoided pressure, rolled to his right and lowered his shoulder into cornerback Greg Toler for what appeared to be a touchdown, per Matthew Schwerha of the Sun Times Network:
The play was eventually called back because of a penalty against guard Kyle Long, but many applauded Cutler's toughness on the play, including Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke:
Not long after Cutler's tough run toward the end zone, the Colts announced Toler left the game with a neck injury, per WGN Radio's Adam Hoge:
On Chicago's next drive, Cutler completed two passes for 22 yards—including a 20-yard toss to tight end Martellus Bennett. The veteran quarterback left the game after Chicago's fourth drive on offense, and he finished the night with 69 passing yards and a 98.6 quarterback rating after completing eight of his nine passing attempts. He also ran the football one time for 13 yards.
Overall, head coach John Fox was pleased with Cutler's performance, according to Dickerson:
Backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen replaced Cutler on offense on the next drive, but the former Notre Dame standout threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game. Clausen bounced back on his next drive and completed three passes for 28 yards—including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bellamy.
Clausen finished the night with 54 passing yards and an 80.1 quarterback rating after completing six of his nine passing attempts. After throwing the interception at the end of the first half, Clausen looked comfortable in offensive coordinator Adam Gase's system. The Bears ran the football a lot in the second half, but Clausen proved he can be a serviceable backup.
Second-year man David Fales made his preseason debut on Saturday night and completed one of his two passing attempts for five yards. Fales missed the majority of training camp due to an undisclosed illness, but he is competing with undrafted rookie Shane Carden to be the team's No. 3 quarterback.
Chicago's offense is a work in progress under Gase, but Cutler looked sharp during the four series he played. The team struggled with penalties and in pass protection in the first half, but Cutler did a nice job of moving around in the pocket and finding his receivers down the field.
Clausen did a nice job of shaking off his first half interception and looked in control in the second half. Fales only attempted two passes Saturday night, but that is two more than Carden attempted in the preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins.
The strong performance in the second preseason game of the year by Cutler and Clausen does not mean the Bears have an embarrassment of riches at the position, but it does prove the offense is heading in the right direction under Gase.
Statistical information courtesy of ESPN.com.
Matt Eurich is a Chicago Bears featured columnist for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.