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Bears have work to do after first preseason game

CHICAGO (AP) - Jay Cutler got pulled before he ever entered the game. Matt Forte and Julius Peppers watched from the sideline, and Brian Urlacher wasn't even at the stadium.

Considering the Chicago Bears were missing four of their best players and that other stars got a quick hook, it's not hard to see why they lost 31-3 to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the preseason opener on Thursday. But there are some things to take away from the game.

One is that they clearly have work to do.

``We didn't play as well as I thought we would,'' coach Lovie Smith said.

Then again, they were missing some key pieces.

Urlacher's absence was hardly a shocker after he missed time in six practices because of his injured left knee and for personal reasons, but Forte and Peppers were also spectators. So was Cutler. He had already warmed up when Smith decided to give the quarterback a breather after his fiancee, Kristin Cavallari, gave birth to a boy the previous day. The coach also wanted to get a look at newcomer Jason Campbell working with the first team.

The result? Well, there's room to improve.

The Bears managed 41 yards in the first half.

It's difficult a little bit,'' said Campbell, who was 4 of 5 for 13 yards before Josh McCown relieved him.You really don't want to show a whole lot of things we've been doing in training camp. We're an explosive group. Tonight it didn't seem that way because tonight we didn't do a lot of those things.''

Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall caught one pass before calling it a night in his first appearance after the Bears acquired him from Miami, and Devin Hester didn't play much, either. One starter who did was left tackle J'Marcus Webb.

He stayed in until midway through the fourth quarter.

Just some players we thought needed reps, we needed to see,'' Smith said.Our tackles are two of them. We wanted to get them a lot of reps as much as anything. Just practice time, improving our ballclub. Some of the guys we kind of know a little more about now.''

It's unusual for teams to leave starters in for more than one or two series in the preseason opener, let alone play them into the fourth quarter. But the Bears seemed to be delivering a loud message - Webb needs to step up his game if he's going to keep his spot.

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice has been a big supporter, but he has also acknowledged that no one has really grabbed the job. That position is the biggest question mark on a team that's eyeing a big run after a disappointing 8-8 finish.

The Bears believe they have the depth to go deep in the playoffs after a busy offseason, but it remains to be seen if they can finally protect their quarterback, particularly on his blind side. Webb committed a false start on the first play of the second quarter and didn't exactly dominate, but he wasn't terrible, either.

We'll look at the film,'' he said.I've got to get better with knowing situations and getting better with the camaraderie with my fellow lineman.''

As for the long night at work?

I didn't look at it that way,'' he said.I think it was a time to get better. I'm a young player and if the team needs me to stay in, then I will.''

On the other side of the ball, rookie defensive end Shea McClellin had a better night after taking a beating in training camp. The first-round pick from Boise State sacked former Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie for a 10-yard loss late in the first quarter and was credited with three tackles and two quarterback hits.

He also was called for a 15-yard personal foul for a blow to Hanie's head near the end of the half, so it wasn't a flawless performance. It was promising, though, for a player who has already taken his share of criticism.

I have a lot to learn, a lot to work out,'' McClellin said.It's a start. There were some good things, some bad things.''

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