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Passing grades for Bears

Bears defenders Corey Wootton (98) and James Anderson (50) tackle the Raiders' Rashad Jennings during Friday's game in Oakland. The Bears led 27-20 at press time.
Bears defenders Corey Wootton (98) and James Anderson (50) tackle the Raiders' Rashad Jennings during Friday's game in Oakland. The Bears led 27-20 at press time.

That went well.

Really well.

Yes, I know, the Bears beat up on the hapless Oakland Raiders, a once proud franchise that now is about one chuckle short of a laughingstock. And, yes, I know it’s the preseason, and we shouldn’t read too much (good or bad) into these games.

But as the following checklist shows, the Bears’ starters on both sides of the ball passed every test in their third game of the preseason.

Here’s some news that is even better. The real action is only 15 days away.

Starting offense

Task: Score at least one first-half touchdown

Grade: PASS

Forget one first-half touchdown. Try three. Yes, the Raiders seem to know as much about tackling as Rod Blagojevich knows about ethics, but the Bears’ first-team offense deserved plenty of credit for its sustained drives.

Matt Forte dashed down the sideline to turn a swing pass into a 32-yard touchdown, and Michael Bush rumbled forward for a pair of north-south scores. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Starting defense

Task: Notch at least one first-half takeaway

Grade: PASS

Ho hum. Just another impressive performance by the Bears’ veteran-laden defense. In the first quarter, Tim Jennings stepped forward to intercept Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn.

That takeaway set up the Bears’ first touchdown one play later.

In the second quarter, Isaiah Frey showed great focus to intercept another one of Flynn’s passes across the middle. After Frey’s pick, a camera showed some of the Bears’ defensive coaches high-fiving each other in the booth. It was tough to blame them.

Jay Cutler

Task: Target someone other than Brandon Marshall

Grade: PASS

Cutler feigned annoyance during practice this week when he was asked about spreading the wealth – last week against San Diego, he targeted Marshall five times out of five.

Based on Friday’s game, someone got the message through to Cutler that he has more than one target on offense. Cutler’s first pass went to Alshon Jeffery, and his second pass went to Martellus Bennett.

Someone other than Brandon Marshall

Task: Catch the ball when Cutler targets you

Grade: PASS

Jeffery capitalized on his opportunities, catching seven passes for 77 yards before halftime.

It’s going to be important this season for Jeffery to gain Cutler’s trust on a full-time basis, particularly if a concussion continues to keep veteran Earl Bennett off of the field.

Surprisingly, it was Marshall who struggled to catch the ball, dropping an easy pass on third down that forced the Bears to settle for a field goal.

Rookies on the offensive line

Task: Take another step toward starting in Week 1

Grade: PASS

Raise your hand if you missed seeing J’Marcus Webb line up with the first-team offensive line in the first half. Yeah, we didn’t think so.

The rookie tandem of right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills provided another reason to suggest that they will line up with the starters come Sept. 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Jon Bostic
Task: Prove that you’re more than a one-hit wonder

Grade: PASS

Bostic flashed in each of the Bears’ first two preseason games, but only for one play apiece.

Against the Raiders, Bostic provided several great plays by chasing down Flynn on one run, containing Terrelle Pryor in one-on-one coverage on another, and stuffing running back Rashad Jennings in the backfield for a 1-yard loss.

Devin Hester

Task: Earn a spot on the highlight reel

Grade: PASS

Hester did not score, but he provided some excitement when he fielded a Raiders punt off of one bounce and darted 19 yards with a (mostly) straightaway burst. There’s no doubt that Hester looks refreshed and confident heading into the regular season.

All of us

Task: Be grateful

Grade: PASS

Whenever something goes wrong for the Bears this season – and something will go wrong, it’s inevitable – just take a deep breath, unclench your fists, and remind yourself that it could be worse. You could be a Raiders fan.

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