By K.C. Johnson
Tribune staff reporter
11:14 PM PDT, August 11, 2006
In lieu of position battles, precision was the focus.
That precision still must be in Bourbonnais, at Halas Hall or back at O'Hare. It certainly didn't get packed in the Bears' luggage, except maybe Brian Griese's.
With the injured Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson keeping the running back battle on the sideline for now, the Bears dived into their 2006 exhibition schedule with a 28-14 loss to San Francisco on Friday night at Monster Park.
Looking ragged on offense and surprisingly soft on defense, the Bears made the 49ers look like world-beaters. Is it time to mention the 49ers finished last in both yards gained and yards allowed last season?
Rex Grossman, so poised and accurate in training camp, looked anything but. He hurried throws, experienced miscommunication with receivers and finished 3-for-11 for 47 yards.
On 16 snaps from scrimmage, the Grossman-led offense managed only one first down. His 44.9 passer rating wasn't reminiscent of Chad Hutchinson, but it wasn't pretty.
"I have to get better," Grossman said. "I know that's not what I'm about. That's not the way I play. I wasn't really able to calm down and feel in control. But I know what I can do. And that's not my best performance."
Griese replaced Grossman with the Bears trailing 17-0 and 4 minutes 23 seconds left in the first half. He directed two touchdown drives in his two possessions, completing 6 of 7 passes for 134 yards and a pair of TD passes.
Working against a second-team defense, he spread the ball efficiently, hitting four receivers on the first scoring drive. A 24-yard gain to P.J. Pope, a 31-yard gain to Rashied Davis and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Reid highlighted the eight-play, 75-yard drive to make it 17-7 at the half.
Griese then connected on a second touchdown pass, a 41-yard play to Davis, a little more than five minutes into the second half. That drive covered 83 yards in five plays.
The Bears have doused all talk of quarterback controversies. But this is Chicago. Fans may be clamoring for one after this night.
"I know how those things work," said Griese, who has experience with them. "I'm not even thinking about that. I'm thinking about trying to get better, learning this offense and proving myself to the guys on the team. That's what I'm focused on."
Added coach Lovie Smith: "Rex is our starting quarterback. This is one game."
Meanwhile, the Bears' defense made Alex Smith look like Joe Montana. Smith finished 16-for-21 for 137 yards and directed two scoring drives, one against the second-team defense.
Smith nevertheless praised the first-team defense, blaming field position off a Mark Bradley fumble for San Francisco's first score, a 33-yard Joe Nedney field goal.
Perhaps noticing 107 first-quarter yards, defensive end Alex Brown saw it differently.
"I don't think we played very well," Brown said. "Our first team needs to come out and set the tone, and we didn't do that.
"We didn't let up any real big plays, but we let them sustain drives. We didn't have any three-and-outs, and that's what we have to do. It definitely wasn't an impressive first game by any means."
It didn't start well.
On the first snap, Grossman air-mailed a pass intended for Adrian Peterson halfway to Alcatraz, then fired wild to Bernard Berrian on the next play.
On third down, Grossman completed a 17-yard pass to Bradley, who promptly fumbled when hit by cornerback Sammy Davis. Former Bear Walt Harris recovered, setting up the 49ers at the Bears' 43.
Smith and Antonio Bryant worked Charles Tillman for back-to-back 11-yard gains. Nathan Vasher then took a Kevan Barlow knee to the head and stayed on the field for several minutes before walking off under his own power.
Vasher returned briefly after Nedney's field goal for a 3-0 lead but later left with a strained back.
On the Bears' next offensive series, Grossman hit Muhsin Muhammad for a 22-yard gain. Three plays later, however, Brad Maynard trotted out to punt after Grossman had missed badly on throws to Reid and Davis.
On both plays, it appeared Grossman and the receivers miscommunicated on routes.
On the third play of the Bears' next series, Grossman fumbled the snap from Lennie Friedman, subbing for a sick Olin Kreutz. After initially recovering the fumble and needing only 2 yards for a third-down conversion, Grossman lunged forward, fumbling again.
Linebacker Jeff Ulbrich scooped up the ball and ran 32 yards untouched for a touchdown and 10-0 San Francisco lead.
The Bears went three-and-out on their next possession, with Grossman underthrowing Bradley on second and third downs under pressure. At least Maynard's tender groin stayed loose.
For good measure, Grossman threw high to Muhammad and overthrew Davis on his final three-and-out series.
That brought in the Bears' second-team defense, and Smith was ready. He promptly marched San Francisco 68 yards in 13 plays, including a fourth-down conversion. Frank Gore capped the drive, which chewed up 7 minutes 16 seconds, with a 1-yard scoring run.
Nedney kicked a 23-yard third-quarter field goal after Griese exited. And Shaun Hill scored on a 3-yard rollout in the fourth to cap the scoring.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC