Lovie Smith spent Saturday afternoon making a statement about what brand of football the Bears will emphasize during his tenure, and his team spent the early part of Saturday evening backing him up.
Hours after the new coach told wide receiver Marty Booker he had been traded to Miami for pass-rush specialist Adewale Ogunleye, the Bears looked as defensive-oriented and opportunistic as their coach wants them to be in creating three turnovers in the first half en route to a 20-13 exhibition victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.
The Bears led 17-10 after three quarters in a game punctuated by a Bears defense that played with a purpose.
On the first play from scrimmage, free safety Mike Brown intercepted 49ers quarterback Ken Dorsey at the Bears' 49 and set up the opening score.
In the second quarter, safety Bobby Gray jarred the ball loose from San Francisco fullback Terry Jackson and Brown recovered the fumble.
On the next series, Bryan Johnson recovered a fumble on a muffed punt return by San Francisco's Jimmy Williams and the Bears had their third takeaway of the night.
For a team so intent on creating turnovers, it represented a good start to what Bears officials privately were calling a great night for the organization.
Quarterback Rex Grossman and the No. 1 offense took advantage of Brown's interception on the first drive by moving 32 yards on nine plays to set up Paul Edinger's 34-yard field goal. Booker's absence was obvious on the first play as Grossman looked deep and the intended target was the man starting in place of Booker, serviceable veteran Ahmad Merritt.
Running back Thomas Jones saved the Bears on that drive. In a second-and-12 situation, Jones created a 19-yard gain with a cut back against the grain to wiggle his way past three would-be tacklers. The way Jones weaved his way downfield brought to mind what Grossman meant last week when he said, "Second-and-long isn't automatically a passing down with [Jones]."
Grossman and the starting offense played well into the second quarter until backup Jonathan Quinn entered with 4 minutes 36 seconds left. The No. 1 offense's only touchdown drive came after Johnson's fumble recovery at the 49ers' 18.
Adrian Peterson, who made a strong showing in his bid to become the No. 3 running back, carried in from the 3-yard line with the Bears' first touchdown.
Peterson gained 30 yards on five carries in the first half, just behind Jones' 32 yards on five carries.
Grossman completed 8 of 16 passes for 44 yards but didn't look as sharp as he did against the Rams. Quinn, expected only to play part of the second quarter, started the second half and led the Bears on an eight-play scoring drive that culminated with a Brock Forsey touchdown run.
The injury bug bit the Bears again Saturday night as they lost two major contributors. Outside linebacker Marcus Reese left the game with a pulled hamstring and safety Bobby Gray bruised his shoulder during the hit on Jackson. Their prognosis was unclear.
Besides the turnovers the Bears' defense swarmed the way Smith has stressed and only let down at the end of the first half. That's when the 49ers staged a 10-play, 52-yard drive capped by a five-yard touchdown reception on a nifty one-handed catch by Illinois product Brandon Lloyd.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun