By Josh Dubrow AP Sports Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — OAKLAND, Calif. — Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears look ready to start the season. The Oakland Raiders look ready for a quarterback controversy.
Cutler led five first-half scoring drives, Matt Forte gained 109 yards from scrimmage and the Bears beat the Raiders 34-26 on Friday night in the final big dress rehearsal for the NFL regular season.
“It was a good outing for everybody, but it is preseason,” Cutler said. “You can’t get caught up in that. I don’t think we can get too high on this game. We made some mistakes, and we need to go back and look at them. But it’s a good barometer of where we’re at and where we can go.”
There were three especially positive signs for the Bears on offense.
For the second straight week, the Raiders were unable to stop the opposing team’s first offense.
After allowing Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to score on all five drives a week ago, the Raiders let Cutler and the Bears move the ball with ease this week.
Chicago scored on its first four drives this game before the Raiders finally came up with a stop midway through the second quarter. The Bears added a late field goal, meaning starting quarterbacks have scored on nine of the past 10 drives against Oakland’s defense.
Cutler also found someone open besides Brandon Marshall.
The Bears have been on a search for a legitimate second option in the passing game after Marshall caught 119 passes and was targeted on more than 40 percent of Chicago’s throws a year ago.
Cutler threw all five of his passes last week to Marshall but spread the ball around more this week. His favorite target was second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had seven catches for 77 yards.
Jeffery caught just 24 passes for 367 yards in 10 games as a rookie last year but looks as if he could be a big part of the Chicago offense this year.
“The guy’s hungry,” Cutler said. “He wants to make it in this league. He knows he has a great opportunity opposite (Marshall). He knows he’s going to get a lot of single coverage.”
Forte showed he’s a perfect fit at running back in new coach Marc Trestman’s offense.
Forte gained 76 yards on six rushes and caught a 32-yard touchdown on a swing pass from Cutler. He is averaging 9.9 yards a carry so far in the preseason.
“He’s scary out there,” Cutler said. “He’s getting more and more comfortable with the running lanes and the blocking schemes. Mark’s doing a great job of getting him outside and finding nifty ways to get him touches outside the box. When he can do things like that, you might as well.”
Former Raiders running back Michael Bush added a pair of touchdown runs as the Bears (2-1) broke out to a 27-0 lead in the first half.
This was likely the last full test for Chicago’s first-team offense before the season as the top stars will play sparingly — if at all — in the exhibition finale next week against Cleveland.
The Raiders (1-2) might need to use next week’s game against Seattle to figure out who their quarterback will be.
Matt Flynn threw two interceptions on just six passes before being pulled in favor of Terrelle Pryor in the second quarter to the delight of frustrated Raiders fans.
Pryor electrified the crowd by leading a late field-goal drive in the first half and then running and throwing for scores in the third quarter. Pryor finished 7-for-9 for 93 yards passing to go along with 37 yards rushin. He led Oakland to 20 points on five drives and made a case that he should be the starter when the season starts.
Upon their return to Lake Forest, the Bears announced Sunday they had released veteran safety Tom Zbikowski and defensive end Kyle Moore, along with 12 other players.
A Notre Dame product and a third-round pick by Baltimore in the 2008 draft, Zbikowski has appeared in 64 games with 25 starts over five seasons with the Ravens from 2008 to 2011 and Indianapolis in 2012.
Moore spent his first two seasons with Tampa Bay and the past two with Buffalo, making seven starts last year.
The Bears also released receiver Devin Aromashodu, running back Curtis Brinkley, defensive tackle Eric Foster, offensive tackle A.J. Lindeman, center P.J. Lonergan, safety Derrick Martin, tight end Gabe Miller, tight end Leonard Pope, defensive tackle Brent Russell, linebacker Patrick Trahan, punter Tress Way and linebacker Lawrence Wilson.