Win or lose, the result of the Bears' opening preseason exercise Sunday night would have provided little if any evidence of the team's 1993 promise.
For the record and for the sake of the 52,752 paying customers at Veterans Stadium, first-year head coach Dave Wannstedt watched his team fall 13-9 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I thought the effort was good," said Wannstedt, whose club was in position for a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute behind third-string quarterback Will Furrer before turning the ball over on downs.
"The thing we'll do and we have to do and what we've talked about is making improvements week after week after week. We needed this. We got a chance to look at a lot of people. That was a must coming into our first preseason game."
The Bears lost their preseason opener for only the second time in the last eight years. The Eagles, who lost their exhibition opener last weekend in Tokyo, evened their record at 1-1.
Fittingly, the baptism of Wannstedt as head coach took place in Pennsylvania. He grew up in Pittsburgh, played football at the University of Pittsburgh and later served as an assistant coach at Pitt.
"I was comfortable with it," Wannstedt said of his debut. "It was good from the standpoint that we got into a 2-minute drill at the end of the game. We had to use our timeouts and there was some clock management involved.
"I caught myself a couple of times back on the bench trying to draw things up. Then someone would say, `Ron (Turner, offensive coordinator in the press box) wants to talk to you about the offense.' I forgot that I had to scurry back up to the sidelines."
As expected, the Bears started Keith Van Horne at right tackle, even though he did not report to training camp until Tuesday.
Darren Lewis started at tailback in place of Neal Anderson, who continues to nurse a sore hamstring. Lewis gained only 13 yards on eight rushes.
"We need to get to square one on our running game," said Wannstedt. "That's the beginning of our offense; that's where it all starts."
After a Chris Gardocki punt in the first quarter, the Eagles marched 53 yards on 11 plays before Roger Ruzek booted a 44-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The Eagles drove to the Bears' 5 early in the second period behind the running of Siran Stacy. After Dante Jones and William Perry stopped Stacy on third down, Ruzek missed a 22-yarder.
Stacy sprinted 35 yards to the Bears' 15 as second-year tackle Antone Davis paved the way against the Bears' second-team defensive line.
The defense stiffened on the next three plays as the Eagles stalled at the 7. Bears cornerback Richard Fain sprained his left ankle on a third-down pass from Randall Cunningham to running back James Joseph. Fain was carted off on a stretcher with 6 minutes 50 seconds left in the half, but what was thought to be a knee injury turned out to be a sprained ankle.
Ruzek connected on a 24-yard field goal for a 6-0 advantage after the seven-play, 53-yard drive.
The Bears' offense finally got in gear against the Eagles' second-team defense. A 27-yard Jim Harbaugh pass to Ryan Wetnight and an 8-yard toss over the middle to Craig Heyward gave the Bears a second-and-goal from the 1 with 1:20 left in the half.
On third down, a wide-open Heyward dropped a soft pass from Harbaugh in the end zone.
"I've never had that happen before in my life," said Heyward.
Kevin Butler then came on to kick a 19-yard field goal.
Peter Tom Willis took over for Harbaugh in the third quarter and completed an 8-yard pass to Curtis Conway, who was hit and fumbled into the arms of the Eagles' Ken Rose with 9:00 left in the third quarter.
"Curtis had a full night," Wannstedt said of the first-round draft pick, who caught two passes for 22 yards, returned four kickoffs for 79 yards and one punt for 5 yards. "But he put the ball on the ground and we can't do that. That was a momentum-stopper."
The Eagles took the game's first turnover and marched 50 yards in nine plays. Rookie free agent Vaughn Hebron darted into the end zone from a yard out to put the Eagles on top 13-3.
The Bears cut it to 13-6 with 13:19 left in the game when Butler booted a 36-yard field goal.
The Eagles were marching for another possible score when Jeff Snyder fumbled into the arms of rookie safety Tracy Saul, who returned it 22 yards to the Philadelphia 46 with 10:07 left.
Furrer took over for Willis to start the drive, and Scott Bonnell, a rookie free agent from Indiana, tacked on a 32-yard field goal.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun