As the Bears' quarterback situation settled into form for opening day, the exhibition season finished in disturbing fashion--beyond losing a late lead in a 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night.
The Bears gave up a touchdown on offense and 17 total points off turnovers. Instead of a game-ending stop, they allowed a 45-yard pass completion on a fourth-and-19 play in the final two minutes to set up Arizona's winning touchdown. They missed two field goals.
"There were some good things. Maybe one of the good things is that the preseason is over."
The defeat in front of 34,111 at Soldier Field left the Bears 1-3 in the preseason and cost them a top special-teams player. Safety Frankie Smith fractured his right shoulder blade attempting a tackle on the Cardinals' long completion in the fourth quarter. He could be out for the year.
The Bears rallied for their 20 points in the second half, topped by a 38-yard field goal by Paul Edinger to go up 20-17 with 2:56 remaining. But Arizona then drove 71 yards in eight plays, the last a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Marcel Shipp that gave the Cardinals their 24-20 lead. The Bears were unable to come back with a score in the game's final minute.
Arizona quarterback Chris Greisen set up the touchdown with a 45-yard pass to tight end Tywan Mitchell to the Bears' 4-yard line. That fourth-down play came after rookie defensive end Karon Riley's blindside sack appeared to have clinched the game for the Bears.
The sack gave Riley 2.5 for the game and moved him past Rosevelt Colvin and Brian Urlacher for the team preseason lead.
Not until the second half under quarterback Jim Miller did the offense show signs of life. Miller's first pass was tipped at the line by defensive end Jabari Issa and returned 49 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Tom Knight. Miller later completed seven straight passes in the second quarter, then directed three straight drives for points in the third quarter to put the Bears ahead 17-14.
"On my interception they had a great blitz coming," Miller said. "You have to take the sack or throw it away, and I tried to make the perfect throw and they made me pay for it."
R.W. McQuarters' punt return of 49 yards gave the Bears the ball at the Cardinals' 8-yard line, from where Miller had the Bears in the end zone two plays later. Miller's 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ahmad Merritt, a prep All-American at St. Rita High School, brought the Bears back to 14-7. Miller guided the offense to the Arizona 19 on the next possession, and Edinger's 36-yard field goal closed the gap to 14-10.
Skip Hicks moved convincingly ahead of Marlon Barnes in the battle for the No. 2 running back spot. Barnes, through three quarters, ran seven times for a total of 5 yards, a 0.7-yard average. Hicks, who again was paired with Jerry Azumah as the deep men on kickoff returns, ran six times for a total of 43 yards in the third quarter.
If Hicks was winning a job, Miller likely was not. Jauron has said that either Matthews would have to lose the No. 1 job or Miller would have to win it outright. Miller completed 13-of-18 passes for 99 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
But Matthews did nothing to lose the job. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 62 yards, including a 39-yard completion on a diving catch by wide receiver Dez White. Matthews finished the preseason with all four starts and passing totals of 23 completions in 35 attempts for 265 yards. He threw for one touchdown, was intercepted once and sacked once.
Third-stringer Danny Wuerffel was 12-of-17 for 84 yards and an interception.
CARDINALS 24, BEARS 20