There was something for everyone Sunday at Soldier Field.
For the nostalgia buffs, there were the reassuring sights of quarterback Erik Kramer calmly directing the offense and tight end Keith Jennings in the end zone.
For the optimists, there was punter Todd Sauerbrun saluting himself after his second solid game of the preseason and the Bears' defensive line with a new resolve in third-down situations.
For the pessimists, there was a rash of penalties and continual evidence of a depth problem on the offensive line.
And for the Bears and their fans, there was whatever solace there is in a preseason victory, in this case 24-21 over the Miami Dolphins.
The victory came on Kevin Butler's 22-yard field goal on the final play. It was set up by a safety recorded by reserve linebacker Greg Briggs.
"Whenever you win the game," said middle linebacker Bryan Cox, playing his first game at Soldier Field in a Bears uniform, "it's exciting."
Of course, the Bears made it more exciting than necessary, for whatever satisfaction derived from the come-from-behind win must be tempered by the fact that they had led 19-0 late in the first half.
Of primary concern, or at least curiosity, was how the offense would perform with Kramer. The starting quarterback had been slowed by a hamstring injury and, in his first game back, showed why he was missed.
"It was good to get Erik back and try to get into a rhythm a little bit with our passing, which I think inadvertently helped our running game," said coach Dave Wannstedt. "So we were real happy with the way the offense started off."
The Bears took a 6-0 lead on first-quarter field goals of 36 yards by Butler and 33 yards by Carlos Huerta, the latter set up when Vinson Smith stuffed Miami running back Irving Spikes for no gain on a fourth-and-1 from the Dolphins' 44.
The Bears extended the lead to 12-0 on an 83-yard strike from Kramer to Curtis Conway a little more than a minute into the second quarter, though they missed the two-point conversion.
And, after a 41-yard punt return by rookie Bobby Engram, the Bears' last touchdown of the day came on a 4-yard pass from Kramer to Jennings.
Kramer, who finished 11 of 18 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, was methodical and remarkably free of the rust he had predicted.
"He was very good, damn good," Jennings said. "He walked in the huddle and he was confident from his first snaps."
Kramer said he was encouraged by the Bears' efficiency on offense, which finished with 426 total yards, 318 passing, to Miami's 259 yards in total offense. The Bears dominated time of possession 39:13 to 20:47.
"We're good enough at execution that we can have some 15- to 20-play drives this year," said Kramer, who, like the rest of the first string, played only the first half. "It's not always going to be a home run. But just by executing and having enough patience and concentration, we'll move the ball."
Defensively, the Bears could take satisfaction in their run defense, holding the Dolphins to 60 yards rushing, along with a respectable 3 for 10 on third-down conversions.
But Dan Marino, who played the first half and was 13 of 19 passing for 159 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, succeeded in demoralizing the Bears with a seven-play, 63-yard drive that took just 50 seconds and culminated with a 4-yard pass to Lamar Thomas with 10 seconds remaining in the half.
"I do see progress, but we still have some work to do, especially third-down situations," Cox said. "We want to continue to work at that, getting pressure on the quarterback. They made a couple long runs you don't like to see, but other than that, I thought we did a good job controlling their running game."
Cornerback Donnell Woolford was beaten on Marino's two touchdown passes. "My knees are bothering me," said Woolford, who missed the last half of 1995 with a hip injury. "I'm not making excuses."
BEARS 24, DOLPHINS 21
For Bears, win good, bad, ugly
Blow 19-0 lead, then tip Miami on last play
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