NASHVILLE—The Bears saw something they wanted very much to see, the big play.. They also saw something that should concern them, the running game, in their 27-24 exhibition loss to the Tennessee Titans in front of a crowd of 68,768 in Adelphia Coliseum.
Coach Dick Jauron has stressed the offense's need for big plays to open up the field and get some easier points. He also wanted the same from the defense to let the offense gain field position and scoring opportunities.
Marty Booker gathered in a Shane Matthews pass with one hand and completed a 63-yard touchdown play. Matthews made the throw as he was being hit and Booker reached over his head to bring the ball down with just his right hand, then outraced the Tennessee secondary over the final 35 yards to score.
It was the Bears' second-longest play in the last two years, regular or exhibiton season. The completion was the longest since Marcus Robinson scored on a 68-yard pass from Cade McNown against Green Bay last Oct. 1.
McNown, however, did nothing Saturday to improve his chances of remaining ahead of Danny Wuerffel as the No. 3 quarterback. He completed four of his first five passes but missed all three of his throws in the third quarter, finishing 4-for-8 with 32 yards. He got the offense in position only for one field goal attempt, which was missed, in his nearly two quarters of work.
Wuerffel completed six of his first nine passes, capping off a scoring drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie David Terrell with 4:23 remaining in the game.
The defense came up with a needed takeaway to end a Tennessee drive in their territory, recording its first interception of the 2001 preseason. Brian Urlacher, who earlier reached Titans quarterback Steve McNair for the Bears' first sack of 2001, picked off a pass deflected by defensive tackle Ted Washington. Veteran Clyde Simmons added a sack of backup Neil O'Donnell in the second quarter.
But the running game on which the Bears are pinning so much of their offensive hopes was dismal against one of the NFL's elite rushing defenses. It is a sign that the offense has a long way to go to be a dominant running team. The Bears finished the first quarter with just 3 rushing yards, all by Marlon Barnes on three carries, while Skip Hicks, who started, carried three times for zero yards.
The rushing totals got a boost when tailback Skip Hicks broke off left tackle for 33 yards in the second quarter, but even with that run the Bears managed only 47 yards for the half and averaged 2.8 yards per rush.
Matthews, named the starter over McNown last week, completed 7 of 9 passes for 106 yards with a TD and interception in his first half appearance. McNown completed 4 of 5 for 32 yards in the first half but failed to put points on the board, with a 49-yard missed field goal by Vitaly Pisetsky the Bears' only scoring threat under McNown.
The Titans started with an easy opening touchdown. The Bears gave the ball away on their sixth play from scrimmage when Dez White stumbled slightly on a slant route and was outfought for Matthews' pass by cornerback Dainon Sidney, who made the interception at the Chicago 28.
With Steve McNair completing four of his first five passes, the Titans scored in six plays with help from missed tackles by the Bears. Cornerback Walt Harris missed wide receiver Derrick Mason in the open field on the second play for a 9-yard gain. Then linebacker Khari Samuel and cornerback Thomas Smith failed to bring Mason down on a pass from McNair that Mason took at the Chicago 3 and bounced off defenders before stepping into the end zone for a 7-0 Tennessee lead midway through the first quarter.
The Booker score tied the game and a 40-yard field goal by Paul Edinger gave the Bears a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter. Joe Nedney tied the game with a kick from 23 yards on the following possession, then sent the Titans to the locker room ahead 13-10 with a 52-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining in the half.
Tennessee moved out to a 20-10 lead on the first possession of the half on a 31-yard TD pass from No. 3 quarterback Billy Volek to wideout Chris Coleman, a pass over Azumah that arrived before safety Ashley Cooper coming over in coverage.
A 6-yard touchdown run by Dan Alexander put the Titans ahead 27-10 with 7:36 remaining.