The Chicago Bears took the field for the first time in preseason action, but they couldn’t come away with the victory as they fell to the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field.
The Bears did get some strong performances out of reserve players, but there were a few concerning elements to their game on the lakefront as well.
To break that all down, here are our winners and losers from the first game of the preseason:
In the first half of the game, Montgomery didn’t exactly have the most eye-popping numbers, but it was the way he operated that opened a lot of eyes. He rushed for 16 yards and a touchdown, and also hauled in three catches for 30 yards, including a 23-yard reception.
The rookie running back has been turning a lot of heads during training camp, and it’s easy to see why with his performance in the game. He has a good amount of elusiveness for a running back of his size, and his field vision was remarkable on his touchdown run, as he used a stutter-step at the line of scrimmage to help open up a seam that he attacked quickly.
Yes, these feats were accomplished against back-ups, but the skillset was still there for anyone to see, and it was a good first effort from the running back.
Elliott Fry Strikes First
The Bears are still working hard to replace Cody Parkey, and although the performances of their kickers aren’t going to be the lone deciding factor, Fry definitely had the night one edge over Eddy Pineiro.
Fry made an extra point, then in the closing seconds of the first half, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera called a timeout to try to ice the kicker. Fry didn’t seem fazed by that, knocking through a 43-yard field goal to send the Bears into the break with a four-point lead.
On the other side of the competition, Pineiro was given a 48-yard field goal from right between the hashmarks, but was unable to knock it home, pushing the kick wide left.
Reserve Pass Rushers
The Bears have a lot of good linebackers, but their defensive line is a bit of a question mark in terms of depth. Fortunately for the Bears, Roy Robertson-Harris looked tremendous in his first action of the preseason, picking up a sack and two total tackles, and he hit holes in the offensive line with a lot of power and speed.
Bilal Nichols also showed good burst and strength at the line, despite being held off the scoresheet. With Akiem Hicks lining up on the other side of the line, Nichols could get a lot of one-on-one matchups, and a big step forward for him could help the Bears a lot.
Bears’ Punt Defense Unit
Special teams is an area where players can really make a name for themselves during the preseason, but most of the guys on the team’s punt defense are probably going to want to burn the tape of their performance on Thursday.
Terry Godwin gashed the Bears for a couple of strong returns, including a 57-yarder in the game, and in seven attempts the Panthers were able to rack up 131 yards off of punt returns.
The responsibility for that largely doesn’t fall on Pat O’Donnell, who hit some booming kicks, but rather on the defenders going down the field, as they were easily blocked and gave up some wide open lanes for the Panthers to exploit.
Look, we’re not going to read too much into preseason results for kickers, as the number of kicks made and missed in exhibition games isn’t likely to be the determining factor on who the team keeps, but Pineiro missed a good opportunity to make a solid first impression on Thursday night.
The kicker was given a tailor-made opportunity in the second quarter, with the Bears deliberately going with a run play on third-and-six to set up a kick from right in between the hashmarks. Unfortunately for Pineiro, he booted the kick wide left, although it had plenty of carry if it had made it through the uprights.
Pineiro did make a kick later in the game, but he already earned some boos from the Soldier Field crowd, and Fry’s quality evening at the office gave him the edge, at least in the minds of fans, early on.
Last year’s preseason darling didn’t do much on the ground for the Bears in the game, with five carries for just eight yards. He did make four catches in the contest, racking up 21 receiving yards, but he wasn’t able to distinguish himself in second half action.
It’s going to be a tough hill to climb for Nall to make the roster, with Kerrith Whyte Jr. likely solidly in the number four slot on the depth chart, but if he’s going to have any chance, he’ll have to show some more burst and elusiveness in the run game for Chicago.