Since training camp started, the Bears have pointed to Green Bay so often that they could apply for jobs with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
The Sept. 10 season opener is what's important, they have spouted loudly and often. Not the exhibition schedule, which ended Thursday night with a 20-7 victory over Cleveland at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Maligned all preseason, the first-team offense will take some much-needed momentum into next Sunday at Lambeau Field after it scored 10 points and posted four first downs on its only two possessions.
Rex Grossman's 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Desmond Clark on a drive Devin Hester's 54-yard punt return set up marked its first touchdown all preseason.
Robbie Gould's 27-yard field goal capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive on the next possession, which featured Grossman hitting three different receivers and ending when Airese Currie failed to make a diving catch in the end zone on third-and-8.
Grossman finished his short night 5 of 8 for 73 yards.
"I'm not sure this has any effect on the Green Bay game, and that's all I'm worried about," Grossman said. "But it was good we got a touchdown and moved the ball. So if anyone is thinking about that, then that's over."
The first-team offense scored 16 points and committed four turnovers on 18 possessions over its four exhibitions. Grossman finished 28 of 54 for 320 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown.
"I've felt like we've been getting better each week," Grossman said. "[Thursday] was no different, just maybe a little bit of another step. Every time we come out on the field everyone feels more comfortable."
Once again, the Bears failed to get Thomas Jones going. He finished with 14 yards on six carries. But the Bears rushed for 174 yards overall, and there were plenty of highlights.
Hester put a stranglehold on the punt-return job after the first-team defense made Cleveland go three-and-out on its opening possession. Picking up nice blocks from Currie, Dante Wesley and Leon Joe, Hester knifed through traffic to put the Bears on the Browns' 20.
An 8-yard pass to fullback Jason McKie earned one first down. Then Grossman rolled out after a play fake to Jones and found Clark in the end zone.
Clark doubled his preseason reception total with his two catches for 31 yards.
"When we get down in the red zone, I believe [the team] has the confidence to come to me," Clark said.
Grossman went right to work on the next possession, finding Clark over the middle for 25 yards on third-and-7. He also found Currie for 12 yards and Rashied Davis for 22 yards before the drive stalled and Gould kicked a field goal.
"You would like to make the most progress at the end going into the Green Bay game," coach Lovie Smith said. "I thought Rex threw well."
After yielding two touchdowns last Friday against Arizona, the first-team defense was dented for just one first down and 35 yards on its three series.
Gould added a 28-yard field goal in the third quarter on a drive led by Kyle Orton, who finished 13 of 21 for 141 yards and one interception.
The rest of the game was about staying healthy and impressing coaches.
Defensive tackle Tank Johnson pressured Browns quarterback Charlie Frye into an incompletion. Fellow DT Ian Scott returned from knee surgery to start. Defensive tackle Antonio Garay continued his strong preseason with an interception off a deflection.
P.J. Pope scored a fourth-quarter touchdown on a 2-yard rush.
On the flip side, rookie fullback J.D. Runnels fumbled and later was carted off with a right ankle injury. And receiver Mark Bradley left with a hip injury.
It's all about looking forward now.
"There's no better way to start off the season than at Lambeau Field with the tradition and rivalry with the Packers," Grossman said.
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun