HOUSTON – After missing all four preseason games, veteran receiver Eddie Royal looked anything but rusty in the Bears' 23-14 season-opening loss Sunday to the Texans.
Royal caught four passes for 57 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown from Jay Cutler, and also returned a punt 31 yards in his first game action since last Dec. 27 in Tampa Bay.
"Eddie's a veteran," said fellow receiver Alshon Jeffery. "He can play football. He's smart. He knows everything. He and Jay played together in Denver, so they've got a chemistry."
Royal gave the Bears a 14-10 lead with :07 left in the first half when he snared a TD pass from Cutler over the middle one play after Jeffery made a leaping 54-yard reception.
"Alshon had made some big plays and just knowing the type of player he is, you've got to pay attention to him in that situation," Royal said. "So I knew they would probably give me single coverage and I knew if I was able to get across [the defender's] face that Jay would put it there on the money and he did. He threw a laser and I just tried my best to hold onto it."
With no timeouts remaining, Royal knew he had to get into the end zone on the play. In a similar situation in a 2014 game against the Packers, tight end Martellus Bennett was stopped inches short.
"You just know the situation," Royal said. "You've got to give the coaches a lot of credit for that for putting us in those situations in practice. We practice those type of things every day we're out there, so we knew we had to get in the end zone. And give Jay a lot of credit for allowing me to get to the end zone before he made that throw."
High jumper: Jeffery's 54-yard catch that set up Royal's TD came when the 6-3 receiver leaped high to beat single coverage.
Asked if he was surprised the Texans had only 5-10 safety Andre Hal on him, Jeffery said: "They could have three or four guys, it doesn't matter. We called the play double go. Jay threw it up and I made a hell of a catch. They have faith in their guy and we've got faith in our guys."
Jeffery caught four passes for 105 yards. It was the 13th 100-yard game of his career, breaking a tie with Curtis Conway for the fifth most in Bears history behind Harlon Hill (19), Johnny Morris (15), Brandon Marshall (15) and Mike Ditka (14).
Turnover time: Cornerback Tracy Porter thwarted the Texans' game-opening drive by stepping in front of receiver DeAndre Hopkins to intercept a Brock Osweiler pass along the sideline.
"Once he made the break, I was already in real good position," Porter said. "Once the quarterback threw the ball and I saw [Hopkins] look back, I was able to snatch the ball out of his hands."
The interception matched Porter's total from all of last season, when the Bears had just eight picks as a team and three by cornerbacks.
After the takeaway, the offense marched 75 yards capped by Jeremy Langford's 1-yard TD run, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead.
"It was huge because if they weren't in the red zone already they were preparing to score at least a field goal," Porter said. "But to take the momentum away from them and give it back to our offense and we drive down and score, that was big for us."
In the trenches: The Bears' starting offensive line featured rookie second-round pick Cody Whitehair at center and veteran Josh Sitton at left guard. Sitton joined the team last Sunday, one day after he was released by the Packers after eight seasons.
Asked how he felt the line performed, right guard Kyle Long said: "We didn't play well enough to win and that's the bottom line. I've got to get better. We all have to be better. We know that. We saw a lot of stuff today and we saw a lot of stuff that we're probably going to see throughout the year over and over and over again until we prove we can stuff it."
News and notes: After missing his entire rookie season with a leg injury last year, receiver Kevin White made his Bears debut, catching three passes for 34 yards. … Running back Jeremy Langford rushed for 57 yards on 17 carries, Ka'Deem Carey had just one rush for four yards and Jordan Howard was active but did not play. … The Texans remain the only current NFL team the Bears have never defeated, having won all four meetings. … Jerrell Freeman led the Bears with 17 tackles, while Danny Trevathan recorded 11 stops and one sack. … First-round pick Leonard Floyd split a sack with second-year pro Eddie Goldman. … Connor Barth was 2-of-2 on extra points but did not attempt a field goal in his first game with the Bears.