Whether the Bears wanted to pull their quarterback after only one series to preserve him or wanted to best evaluate backup Caleb Hanie, they accomplished both. Cutler left after throwing only two passes and leading a drive that resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal. So much for working on timing with his wide receivers in the new offense.
The starters are expected to play into the second quarter next week against the Raiders, and offensive coordinator Mike Martz campaigned openly for a veteran backup all spring. The bottom line is the Bears looked to get out of the 25-10 loss to the Chargers without an injury to a projected starter.
The return of Brian Urlacher to the middle of the defense allowed him to get in the flow of things, and the addition of pass-rushing stalwart Julius Peppers has been much ballyhooed. Neither provided anything that jumped out in a two-series outing. The Bears forced a three-and-out to open the game, and the Chargers went ahead 7-3 on Philip Rivers' 28-yard pass to Legedu Naanee.
The first-team offense looked snappy in training camp, and with the exception of a cornerback blitz by Donald Strickland that running back Matt Forte didn't pick up, things were smooth on the opening drive. The line held up on a blitz, and Cutler stepped up into the pocket to hit Johnny Knox for a 33-yard gain.
But after the Strickland sack, Cutler rolled out of the pocket on third-and-14, taking a pop from Burnett instead of going down or out of bounds, contact the coaches surely have implored him to avoid.
"We definitely have to play more," Cutler said of the starters. "We were excited to get into rhythm. We just wanted to get in there and knock some of the jitters off."
Coach Lovie Smith said on WBBM-AM: "We liked what we were able to do early on. Jay moving the ball down the field with the passing game. Johnny Knox caught a couple of big passes."
Hanie delivered a mixed outing before being knocked out midway through the third quarter when linebacker Antwan Applewhite sacked him from behind, forcing a fumble and driving Hanie's right shoulder into the turf. If Hanie is sidelined for any length of time, the Bears will have to consider the thin crop of available quarterbacks.
Hanie, an undrafted free agent from Colorado State, made the roster as a surprise in 2008 when he kept making plays late in exhibitions. That's what he did on second-and-goal from the 7 when he rolled right out of the pocket and hit Devin Aromashodu for a touchdown pass. He finished 10-for-17 for 148 yards and an 82.5 passer rating.
But Hanie's second drive with the first-team offense was forgettable. The first snap was aborted, and his third-down throw was nearly picked off. At the start of the third quarter, he made a poor decision in the face of pressure, getting intercepted by Paul Oliver on a throw across the middle.
"It's a starting point," left tackle Chris Williams said. "Obviously, we'd like to score more. We'll be better next week."
Rookie safety Major Wright was a bright spot before he left with an injured left index finger. It was wrapped after the game, and he said it will be examined Sunday.