The future of the Bears came calling at Soldier Field Friday night and looked very, very good. The present, however, was considerably less encouraging.
Rookie running back Curtis Enis finished off an 86-yard third-quarter drive directed by rookie quarterback Moses Moreno, bringing what was left of a disgruntled crowd of 40,994 to life with a 2-yard touchdown run in the Bears' final exhibition game, a 24-7 loss to the New York Jets.
Enis, who missed nearly four weeks of training camp, rushed for 53 yards on 11 carries in the third quarter while Moreno was completing 3-of-4 passes for 46 yards.
Coach Dave Wannstedt has designated Edgar Bennett the starting tailback opening day. But Bennett finished off a lackluster exhibition season with five carries Friday for only 14 yards, all of them on one second-quarter draw play, and has averaged less than 2.5 yards a carry.
Enis, while facing less than first-team defenders, has averaged nearly 5 yards per rush and has made it evident that he is ready to assume a major role in an otherwise largely unproductive offense.
The Bears finished only the third winless exhibition season since they were in leather helmets. Other than 1923 when their only exhibition game was a scoreless tie with the Milwaukee Badgers, only the 1962 (0-5) and 1978 (0-4) exhibition seasons saw the Bears without at least one victory.
"There's a certain amount of frustration and there needs to be," said tackle Andy Heck. "I feel like we've done some good things but the bottom line is that we need to put some points on the board."
The first offense, which played the entire first half, with the exception of quarterback Erik Kramer, finished the exhibition season with only nine first-half points in four games. Kramer left at the end of the first quarter, at which time the Bears had 1 yard of offense on five plays.
The 1 yard was the offense's problem. That the offense was only on the field for 2:28 of the quarter was a problem created with the help of the defense, which proved unable to stop the Jets the first two times New York touched the ball.
"Until we can run the football consistently and not give up big plays on defense, we are going to have a tough time," Wannstedt said. "And it doesn't make any difference who's playing quarterback."
The Bears coverage of the opening kickoff pinned the Jets at the New York 18 but that was the last time they would tackle a Jet short of a meaningful line on the field for the first nine minutes of the game. New York moved easily to the Chicago 2 in 16 plays before running back Curtis Martin dropped a third-down pitchout and was forced to fall on the ball. The Jets settled for a field goal.
The Bears went three-and-out and Todd Sauerbrun, whose punting throughout the exhibition season has been a bright spot, forced a fair catch at the New York 14. But the defense squandered that field position as well, the Jets going 86 yards in six plays for a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
The breakdowns were occurring all over the field by this time. The Jets' first drive was helped by two encroachment penalties against defensive end Mark Thomas. The touchdown drive included two pass-interference penalties against the Bears' secondary, neither of which even prevented Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet from catching the ball, the second time for a 22-yard touchdown.
"We had them second-down-and-50 or whatever it was (50) and they make a big play on us," Wannstedt said. "Then we get them third down a couple of times and we don't get them on the ground. We have to zero in on our pressure package on third down, which we will."