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Rapid Reaction: Bears offense off to hot start

Bears receiver DJ Moore and running back Khalil Herbert
Bears receiver DJ Moore and running back Khalil Herbert

The Bears offense opened the preseason in dynamic fashion Saturday at Soldier Field, generating explosive touchdowns on its first two possessions.

Receiver DJ Moore and running back Khalil Herbert turned short Justin Fields screen passes into electrifying 62- and 56-yard touchdowns, respectively, to give the Bears a 14-7 first-quarter lead en route to an eventual 23-17 win over the Titans.

"I don't think I've ever seen that in a first preseason game," said coach Matt Eberflus. "We've been working really hard on those screens, as I said last week. They're operating better. Our timing still has to get better on those. But it's really a credit to the athleticism of DJ and Herbert as well, but it's also guys blocking. On the first one I saw Braxton [Jones] block the edge and I saw [Darnell] Mooney seal it. It was a really good play by all three of those guys, and then we saw the speed of DJ."

Moore made his Bears debut a memorable one, catching a receiver screen behind the line of scrimmage on the offense's third play of the game, sidestepping a defender and speeding away from the rest of the defense.

On the Bears' second drive, Herbert snared a screen pass, picked up a block from center Cody Whitehair and weaved his way to the end zone. The TD came three days after Herbert had told reporters that he spent the offseason working on his long speed so he could finish his big plays in the end zone.

The Bears bolstered their roster throughout the offseason via trade, free agency and the draft. The most significant addition was Moore, who was acquired along with four draft picks from the Panthers in exchange for the No. 1 choice in the draft.

"When you increase your skill on your football team, the catch and runs get larger and the stat line looks better," Eberflus said. "We're going to continue to do that, and certainly we're going to take our shots down the field as well. But it's a good thing to see. And it's not a real big surprise to anybody that's been around because we've all seen it in practices. Just got to keep working because we've got a long way to go."

The Bears defense also produced impact plays, generating four takeaways and eight sacks in Saturday's victory. Defensive end Terrell Lewis led the way with 2.0 sacks, while defensive end Jalen Harris added 1.5. 

"Defensively, I thought we attacked the football well," Eberflus said. "I thought we really rushed the passer better than we had, so you can see some improvements there. We're excited about that."

Three of the Bears' four takeaways came in the second quarter. First, safety A.J. Thomas intercepted a pass at the goal line that deflected off tight end Josh Whyle. Safety Adrian Colbert then forced and recovered a Whyle fumble at the Bears' 40 after a short reception. Lewis later sacked Malik Willis, forcing a fumble that rookie defensive tackle Zacch Pickens recovered at the Titans' 37.

Conversely, the Bears committed three turnovers, all in the first half. Backup quarterback P.J. Walker was intercepted on a deep pass intended for receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones Jr. muffed a punt and receiver Tyler Scott lost a fumble after a 9-yard reception. 

Cairo Santos kicked field goals of 28, 29 and 49 yards without a miss in the second half to turn a 17-14 halftime deficit into a 23-17 lead. 

The Bears defense preserved the win with two late stops. Linebacker Barrington Wade broke up a Will Levis pass intended for receiver Gavin Holmes in the end zone on fourth-and-8 from the 10 with 1:35 remaining. After the Titans forced a punt, they advanced to the Chicago 36 before safety Bralen Trahan intercepted a desperation Levis throw at the 13 with :10 left.

The Bears will be off Sunday before returning to practice Monday at Halas Hall. They'll fly to Indianapolis Tuesday before conducting joint workouts with the Colts Wednesday and Thursday in advance of Saturday night's preseason game between the teams at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

"I've been involved in a lot of these [joint practices], and I think it's really cool because you get to cover and go against different skillsets," Eberflus said. "We've been going against the same guy. There's some good players out there, so it's going to be an exciting week." 

On the sideline: Bears players who did not appear in Saturday's game were receivers Chase Claypool and Dante Pettis; tight end Marcedes Lewis; guard/center Lucas Patrick; guards Logan Stenberg and Nate Davis; defensive ends DeMarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue; linebackers Tremaine Edmunds, DeMarquis Gates and Dylan Cole; cornerbacks Josh Blackwell and Terell Smith; and safety Jaquan Brisker.

Check out the on-field action as the Bears take on the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field during Week 1 of the preseason.

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