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Bears struggle in preseason opener

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The Bears left plenty of room for improvement in all three phases following their 22-0 preseason-opening loss to the Broncos Thursday night at Soldier Field.

The Bears allowed points on offense, defense and special teams while being shut out in a preseason game for the first time since 1981 when they lost to the Chiefs 13-0.

The defending Super Bowl champions dominated the stat sheet, holding considerable advantages in total yards (344-130), first downs (18-8) and time of possession (36:05-23:55).

"I was disappointed personally," said coach John Fox. "I think our team was disappointed. We were expecting more. I don't know that we executed as well as any of us expected.

"It is preseason. You don't game plan. It's pretty basic, but there's definitely some room for improvement and it will be a good learning process when they go in and look at the tape."

Offensively, the Bears went three-and-out on seven of their 12 possessions and allowed seven sacks, one of which resulted in a safety and the game's final points.

"We didn't execute as well as we need to or as well as we should have," Fox said. "Part of it's recognition, getting it communicated, and we didn't do that as well as we should have."

The Bears' No. 1 offense mustered just 13 yards and one first down on 10 plays over three possessions before exiting late in the first quarter. Jay Cutler completed 3 of 4 passes for 18 yards but was sacked on third down on each of Chicago's first two drives, leading to punts.

"We need to get better," Cutler said. "It starts with everybody. It starts with me. So we'll take a look at it—the limited amount of plays we were in. We'll assess what we did good and bad and we'll try to get better."

The Bears' first-team defense also got off to a slow start, permitting a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive on the game's opening possession. Mark Sanchez connected on 7 of 8 passes for 83 yards, including a 32-yard TD to a wide open Demaryius Thomas, who beat cornerback Bryce Callahan.

Callahan redeemed himself on Denver's second possession, however, deflecting a Sanchez pass that was intercepted by linebacker Jerrell Freeman at the Chicago 40. The Bears had just eight interceptions last season, with only one by an inside linebacker (Jonathan Anderson).

"It's always good to get the ball in your hands," Freeman said. "Luckily [the receiver] ran into squat coverage on the back side and Bryce was there to help me out. We're always going to be conscious of turnovers. It's a big emphasis for any defense. We've just got to keep it up and keep it going."

After the Bears' starting defense exited, the Broncos made it 10-0 on Brandon McManus' 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Denver settled for the kick after rookie cornerback Deiondre Hall broke up passes in the left corner of the end zone on back-to-back plays.

The Broncos then scored 10 points in a 1:16 span late in the first half to widen the margin to 20-0. After McManus hit a 44-yard field goal, Bennie Fowler blocked Pat O'Donnell's punt deep in Bears territory and Zaire Anderson recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Fowler beat Bears rookie DeAndre Houston-Carson with an inside move on the play.

Denver had a chance to add to its lead late in the half after Lorenzo Doss intercepted a high Brian Hoyer pass that deflected off Deonte Thompson and returned it nine yards to the Broncos' 42. But Chris Prosinski blocked McManus' 48-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half.

The Broncos made it 22-0 early in the third quarter as blitzing linebacker Dekoda Watson sacked quarterback David Fales in the end zone for a safety.

The Bears generated just 79 total yards and five first downs through the first three quarters. They gained one yard on 10 plays in the third period.

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