Terry Shea wanted to call plays from the sideline instead of the press box so he could look eye-to-eye with Bears offensive players as they came off the field.
In the first half of Friday night's 17-13 loss to the Saints, Shea probably felt like covering his eyes when those players were on it.
"It felt a little spotty," quarterback Rex Grossman said.
A Soldier Field crowd of 61,208 that included a smattering of boo-birds in the final two minutes might say Grossman was being kind. The Bears' starting offense sputtered in the third and most important game of preseason that made Lovie Smith and his coaching staff thankful that two weeks still remain until the regular-season opener Sept. 12.
The performance was so bad that quarterback Rex Grossman ended the first half with a lower quarterback rating than Saints No. 3 quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan.
"Rex was a little off," Smith acknowledged.
Grossman didn't appear sharp until the opening series of the third quarter when he engineered an eight-play, 68-yard scoring drive capped by a 1-yard TD run by Adrian Peterson that tied the game 10-10.
Before Jonathan Quinn replaced him in the middle of the third quarter, Grossman completed 6 of 18 passes for 106 yards without a touchdown or interception for a rating of 54.4. He pointed out that several of the incompletions as a result of miscommunication with receivers.
A perfectly thrown 24-yard completion to Ahmad Merritt on a crossing pattern during the starting offense's lone touchdown drive looked like the Grossman the Bears had banked their season on instead of the one who struggled in the first half.
"As the first group got taken out [in the third quarter], I think the defense was playing excellent and the offense was just starting to come around," Grossman said.
The Bears squandered their best scoring opportunity of the first half after Daryl Jones, one of the surprises of training camp, returned a kickoff 69 yards to the Saints' 28 after New Orleans had taken a 10-3 lead with 1:54 left.
But an offensive pass interference penalty on third-and-10 on wide receiver David Terrell, who pushed off on Saints cornerback Jason Craft, nullified a 28-yard touchdown pass. The Bears eventually had to punt.
Critics might suggest Grossman's performance shows how badly he will miss Marty Booker, but the entire offensive unit seemed out of sync on pass plays. Example: On third-and-18 on the Bears' 18, out of the shotgun, center Olin Kreutz snapped the ball over Grossman's head and Grossman was forced to rush a pass that fell incomplete.
When the Bears ran the ball, they proved just how heavily their offense might lean on running back Thomas Jones.
Jones, emerging as the biggest-impact signing in an off-season full of them, gained 65 yards on 10 carries in a little more than a quarter. "A lot of times when [the linemen] maintain their blocks and hold their blocks, I just have to hit the hole," Jones said.
Penalties plagued both teams and caused the game to slog along. The Bears committed 18 penalties for 136 yards, giving them 47 in three games and the look of an undisciplined team.
"I thought we had gotten past that, but I guess not," Smith agreed.
A mental mistake on special teams set up the Saints' first touchdown.
Bobby Wade muffed a punt return that the Saints recovered on the Bears' 27 with 4:27 left in the second quarter. Four plays later, Deuce McAllister scampered in from 8 yards for the score.
Wade was deep on punts only after R.W. McQuarters pulled his right hamstring in the second quarter and left the game. Smith didn't want to predict how long McQuarters would be out but will proceed as if he will miss the opener.
Other than McQuarters' injury, the Bears had reason to feel encouraged defensively about a front seven that gave up only 49 yards rushing in the first half against the Saints' starters and will only get better when left end Adewale Ogunleye joins the mix Friday against the Browns.
Rookie defensive tackle Tommie Harris started alongside Bryan Robinson and made his presence felt more than he has. Harris left during the Saints' first-quarter scoring drive with what appeared to be complications caused by the heat, but later returned to make two solid back-to-back plays in the second quarter: A quarterback hurry of O'Sullivan and a stop of running back Deuce McAllister for no gain.
"I'm here to make plays," Harris said. "So wherever they put me, that's what I'm going to do."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times