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Younger Bears state their case
The Bears saw some things they wanted to see and a few they didn't want to see in their final exhibition game, a 24-22 loss to the Miami Dolphins before an announced crowd of 57,113 Thursday night at Pro Player Stadium.
The Dolphins scored on three of their first four possessions on their way to a 17-7 halftime lead and then held off the Bears in what both teams regarded primarily as an exercise in evaluation.
"It's a good thing that the preseason is over," said Bears coach Dick Jauron, who is 0-4 in final preseason games. "I am relieved. This is what we do. Once the season starts, there is nothing like it in our profession."
The focus was clearly on settling questions down the depth chart. But rookie Marc Colombo made a late push in his case to be the Bears' No. 1 left tackle, the spot currently held by Bernard Robertson, who left the game with a bruised chest in the first quarter.
That competition has been tightening, in good ways and bad. Both have played well at times and not so well on other occasions. Robertson appeared to miss the snap count and was beaten on the Bears' third play from scrimmage by defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, resulting in a sack of Jim Miller and a fumble at the Bears' 11.
Linebacker Derrick Rodgers eventually recovered the ball at the Bears' 19. The Dolphins scored four plays later when Travis Minor ran 15 yards untouched through the middle of the No. 2 defense to put the Dolphins up 10-7, still in the first quarter.
Colombo had his own moment of misery with Ogunleye, giving up Ogunleye's eighth sack of the preseason. But Colombo settled in and played well through the remainder of the half and into the fourth quarter.
"I thought my run blocking was pretty good but on my pass blocking I still need to work on my knee bend," said Colombo, who said he is not even thinking about the possibility of starting.
Ex-Bears special teams coach Keith Armstrong made a statement on the game's opening kickoff with an onsides kick that the Dolphins recovered at the Miami 44. The Dolphins drove to the Chicago 16 from where Olindo Mare kicked a 34-yard field goal.
Miller threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Dez White on the Bears' first play from scrimmage to give Chicago a brief lead. White split the Miami secondary and was wide open when he took Miller's pass in stride and pulled away from the defense.
"It was something they do with their defense and we thought we could take advantage of it," White said. "The safety ran up to cover David [Terrell] and left me all alone."
But Miller suffered a slight ankle sprain on the second possession and did not return. Team officials said that he would have been able to return to the game had this been the regular season.
Chris Chandler took over for Miller but could not move the offense. Miami scored on its next possession to lead 17-7.
The backup running back competition intensified in ways the Bears hoped it would, with both challengers turning in strong games that confirmed that both have futures, in the NFL.
Sixth-round draft choice Adrian Peterson gained an edge on undrafted free agent Eric McCoo when he returned a second-quarter kickoff 38 yards but McCoo answered with a 13-yard run off right tackle.
Peterson appeared to make the Bears' roster decision for them as he broke runs of 8, 19, 10 and 7 yards on the Bears' first possession of the third quarter, and finished the scoring drive with a 2-yard dive over right guard to close the score to 17-14. He rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries while McCoo rushed 12 times for 58 yards.
McCoo responded with a return of 36 yards and capped off the Bears' next possession after a Miami score with a 1-yard carry to complete a 13-play, 60-yard drive that took more than six minutes. Quarterback Ken Mastrole threw to Edell Shepherd for the two-point conversion.