On a clear Thursday night, the moon was full over Soldier Field. But the stars were all but impossible to find.
The objective of the fourth exhibition game was to avoid injuries, so none of the big names even broke a sweat.
The objective, however unfortunate, was not met. On the Bears' second possession, No. 2 running back Kevin Jones injured his left ankle and was carted off the field to the locker room. Coach Lovie Smith said the injury would be re-evaluated in a couple of days but expressed optimism it was not serious.
If another objective was to fill Soldier Field, it was not met either. A lovely evening on the lakefront and a cold but pricey beverage or two was not enough to lure the less than faithful, as many chose to eat their tickets rather than sit through the Bears' 26-23 victory.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, along with most of the other established starters, had their spikes off and baseball caps on by the time some of the fans who did show up found their seats. Some of the starters, including Matt Forte, Devin Hester and center Olin Kreutz, were given the night off.
The most interesting player who sat it out was receiver Rashied Davis, who many presumed was fighting for a roster spot. Apparently Smith did not see it that way.
"We feel we have a pretty good idea about his talent level and what he could do if he's on the football team," Smith said.
The atmosphere could not have been more different from the atmosphere four nights earlier, when Cutler made his return to Denver against the Broncos.
"Last week was almost like a playoff game," Kreutz said. "This was a fourth preseason game and we were trying to just get off the field healthy. It might have felt flat for us, flat for the fans, but for guys trying to make the team, that was their Super Bowl out there."
In his only series, Cutler led the Bears 19 yards and set up Robbie Gould for a 43-yard field goal.
But really, Zack Bowman had more to do with the first three points of the game than Cutler. The only thing Cutler did was hand off to Jones six times. Bowman, on the other hand, came up with the interception that set up the drive.
The play was significant for Bowman, who was playing in his first exhibition game of the year because of a hamstring injury.
"I was kind of nervous, but once I got that play, I felt good," Bowman said.
He also said his hamstring felt good, even though he was taken out of the game to have it looked at.
A few other players stood out for the Bears. Rookie Johnnie Knox showed some speed and moves on a 43-yard catch, a 50-yard kickoff return and a 38-yard punt return.
Fellow receivers Brandon Rideau and Juaquin Iglesias also made roster bids with nice plays.
Tight end Michael Gaines, who many think could be cut, had a nice overhead grab for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Second string quarterback Caleb Hanie overcame an erratic first half and finished with a 91.5 passer rating, while third stringer Brett Basanez had a 138 passer rating.
But did any of it really matter?
Smith indicated the game won't affect the roster decisions much.
"It's always good to get to the end of the preseason after you've done a lot of good work," Smith said. "We feel like that's what we've been able to do. We know a lot more about our team. We're a good team."
If the objective was to get the darned preseason over with, consider it met.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times