It was less than half a game, and a preseason game at that, but in 20 minutes Saturday night Jay Cutler displayed everything Chicago hopes he can do for the 2009 Bears.

It was less than half a game, and a preseason game at that, but in 20 minutes Saturday night Jay Cutler displayed everything Chicago hopes he can do for the 2009 Bears.

Cutler wasn’t flawless in Chicago’s 17-3 preseason victory over the New York Giants. He did overthrow a wide-open Devin Hester – “We can’t hit them all,” Cutler said -- on what would have been a 91-yard touchdown play. But in three consecutive scoring drives that gave Chicago a 17-0 lead, Cutler displayed his immense value by:

Making former Vanderbilt teammate Earl Bennett useful. Bennett didn’t catch a pass as a rookie third-round draft pick last year. But Cutler hit Bennett twice for a team-high 42 yards, including a 27-yarder on third-and-8, and also threw to him for a key 23-yard pass interference penalty on third-and-9.

Opening space for Matt Forte. The Bears run game looked stalled when Forte gained 5 yards on four carries in Chicago’s game-opening 50-yard field goal drive. But after Cutler heated up, Forte broke runs of 17 yards and 32 yards for a touchdown on a draw play.

“We’re a running football team, but we have a quarterback that can throw the ball and make some plays,” Forte said.

Making plays with his feet. Cutler threw a low bullet on the run to Bennett for 15 yards to open Chicago’s first touchdown drive. He bought time by scrambling right when he overthrew Hester. Another rollout kept the drive alive with a 4-yard pass to Hester on third-and-1. He scrambled 12 yards on third-and-6 one play before his 38-yard pass to a diving Devin Aromashodu down to the 2.

On his next – and last -- play, Cutler threw a 2-yard TD pass to Desmond Clark for a 17-0 lead with 10:17 remaining in the first half.

Coach Lovie Smith said Cutler’s mobility “was a big part of … keeping our drives going.”

“He’s an athlete,” Smith said. “We’re banking on him being able to make plays like that.”

Cutler completed 8 of 13 passes for 121 yards and a 117.8 passer rating, while Forte ran for 58 yards on nine carries.

The Bears rolled up 282 yards of offense in the first half and could have led by much more than 17-3 if not for a pair of fumbles. Kevin Jones lost a fumble at Chicago’s 28 to set up New York’s only points on a 42-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal. And Garrett Wolfe stopped a Caleb Hanie-led drive by fumbling out of the end zone with six seconds left in the half.

Cutler said the Bears (1-1) are “going to keep our feet on the ground” and not get too excited about a preseason win, but thought it was a great sign that he could miss on a potential 91-yard pass and still drive 92 yards for a touchdown.

“We had a shot there and I overthrew it a little bit,” Cutler said. “That’s going to happen. We’re going to miss plays like that. We’re going to have miscommunications at times. Sometimes we’re not going to execute. You’ve got to forget it and move on to the next play.

We did a great job of that. Sometimes we’d only get 2 or 3 yards, and we obviously missed that one for a touchdown, but we always bounced back.”

He was also impressed with untested receivers Bennett, Aromashodu and Brandon Rideau, who all made catches of at least 20 yards.

“That’s the beauty of those guys,” Cutler said. “You get a big guy who can run and stretch the field; it’s tough on defensive backs. We’re looking for receivers, and we’re finding them each and every day.”

Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com