CLEVELAND — Jerry Angelo would like for you to believe the Bears' performance over four exhibitions was part of a growing process that will have them ready for the Lions on Sept. 12.
That's what the general manager is hoping. Whether he's operating on blind faith or has optimism rooted in progress he has measured in other ways, it's hard to say.
The exhibition season came to a close Thursday night as the Bears lost to the Browns 13-10 at mostly empty Cleveland Browns Stadium on a 36-yard Phil Dawson field goal as time expired. They finished 0-4 in preseason for the first time since 1998, the final year of the Dave Wannstedt era.
Todd Collins, starting in place of Jay Cutler, completed 10 of 15 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown, likely confirming his role as the No. 2 quarterback. The starting defense played one snap, a fumble by Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
"There was some frustration last week, but it's not like we're defeatist," Angelo said. "I've seen teams go 0-4 and have great seasons, and I've seen teams go 4-0 and have bad seasons. Let's not overrate it. It's important, yes, but the season is when you get the real identity of your team and we feel good about that. We'll just see when we play Detroit."
The next step will be a final personnel meeting Friday. Final cuts to form the 53-man roster are due by 5 p.m. Saturday.
Angelo said decisions for final cuts could be more difficult this year, perhaps because he faces the prospect of having to waive third-round draft picks from 2009 in defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert and receiver Juaquin Iglesias. Safety Al Afalava, a starter for 13 games last season, is in jeopardy. Injuries have made it difficult to evaluate the safety position and could lead to an extra one such as Josh Bullocks making it.
Offensively, the Bears are concerned about the play of the line after Cutler was sacked 10 times and threw just 37 passes through the first three exhibitions. The Bears finished with 46 points over four games, second-lowest in the NFL.
Nothing the starting unit did or didn't do against the Browns will ease concerns. Angelo says things can be done to shore up deficiencies within the scheme, but will it take the Bears away from doing what Mike Martz wants?
"We're not really throwing everything we have at teams," Cutler said. "When this stuff gets rolling Mike is really going to be on fire."
Questions remain for the defense. Do the Bears have a player on the line to take pressure off Peppers? Can the veteran linebackers— read Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs — stay healthy now that the action counts? Are the much talked about tweaks to the secondary going to make a difference for a unit that struggled mightily getting off the field on third down?
"We're doing many more different things in the secondary than we have in the past," Angelo said. "It's not déjà vu. I know that's what you see, that's what you have to write. I understand that.
"But we're experimenting with some of these things too, so there are some growing pains on the defensive side, not just on the offensive side of the ball.
"Now, it's a matter of us going out and executing. That's the bottom line."
Soon it will be known if exhibitions matter. The Colts were the only other team to finish 0-4.
Little revealed in Bears' 13-10 loss to Browns
After a dismal, winless exhibition season, club maintains things will be righted for opener
Greg Olsen comes down in the end zone with a TD. (AP / Mark Duncan)