It may not have been immediately evident, but today’s 41-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts proved that the Chicago Bears have an offense to be reckoned with. They weren’t without their issues though, as the first four plays of the game were just about as bad as they could have been.
(1-0) Chicago Bears 41
(0-1) Indianapolis Colts 21
Jay Cutler took a 12-yard sack on the very first play from scrimmage, leaving the offense at their own 4 yard line. Gabe Carimi committed a false start penalty, setting them back another two yards. An incompletion over the middle to Alshon Jeffery left the Bears in fourth and long, forcing a punt. After the Bear defense forced a Colt punt (which was downed at the 3), Jay tossed a pass to the flat that dropped right into the hands of Jerrell Freeman, who undercut the route from his zone coverage, took two steps and was already in the endzone. Just like that, Bear fans were stunned and asking questions. (I was calmly breaking everything in my room.) Where was the high-powered offense? Had we even practiced that week? WOULD THINGS EVER GO RIGHT EVER AGAIN?
Fortunately, Cutler found his groove and began to light up this Colt secondary. Give him credit for working back after the terrible interception and the early pressure and big hits. Mike Tice let him loose with play action passes mixed in with hand-offs to get his confidence back. It wasn’t missing for long. After his craptastic start, Cutler finished 21 of 35 for 333 yards and two scores. I’ll take that.
Matt Forte and Michael Bush proved an effective 1-2 combination at running back, accounting for 123 rushing yards and three touchdowns on a combined 28 carries. Forte broke free on several runs, including a 32-yarder on Chicago’s first scoring drive. He added three receptions for another 40 yards. (One of which was a fantastic one-handed grab down the middle.) Bush came in on goal line situations and punched it in twice. But as good as they were, the combination of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at receiver might have been better. Marshall was targeted 15 times for nine receptions, totaling 119 yards and a TD catch on a 3-yard dart from Cutler in the second quarter. Alshon notched three catches for 80 yards, making use of his large frame. Marshall and Jeffery abused the Colts’ undersized corners. A late deep throw from Cutler found Alshon Jeffery racing deep past double coverage and into the endzone to put the nail in the proverbial coffin. It was as badass as it sounds. It was Jay’s “Eff you guys, I’m finishing this” moment of the game.
Aside from the offensive weapons, the real stories of the game were the turnovers and constant harassment of Andrew Luck. Pressure from Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, and rookie Shea McClellin got in the young QB’s grill, forcing errant throws and bad decisions. Melton racked up two sacks on the afternoon, garnering single coverage thanks to Chicago’s edge-rushers drawing attention. Indy turned the ball over five times over the course of the game in the form of three interceptions and two fumbles. Corey Wootton strip-sacked Luck late, fumbling right into the arms of Peppers. But the defensive player of the game had to be Tim Jennings, who intercepted Luck twice (including one crazy-high grab) and tipped a third pass in the endzone allowing Chris Conte to catch and run.
Special teams was a mixed bag for the Bears on the day. The Colts coverage units pinned them deep in their own territory often, making Cutler and company earn their yardage. Colt kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 37-yarder to end the half, keeping the Bear lead in double-digits. On the kickoff following the Bears’ first score of the second half, J.T. Thomas forced a fumble from Lavon Brazill, which would have bounced out of bounds had former Colt Kelvin Hayden not jumped on it.
On defense, there were a few examples of poor tackling and block-shedding from Chicago. There was a drive where Donald Brown had way too many blockers out in front of him as he scampered in for an 18-yard score, but to be fair there weren’t a lot of those plays. The Colts have to give up on the run early and was forced to play catch-up and throw the ball.
Offensively the Colts showed flashes of the team they will become on several drives, but were too behind to force the game’s tempo. Luck made some excellent reads and was adept at going through his progressions. Coby Fleener is a physical pass-catching tight end who should have a good year. And Reggie Wayne? Dude’s still awesome, whether Manning is around or not. (He just needs someone better than Curtis Painter throwing him the ball.)Other Notes of Note:
-Charles Tillman going down with a leg injury didn’t matter today, but it will matter a great deal if he’s not ready for Thursday night’s match-up with the Packers.
-Was Devin Hester filming a video trying to perfectly capture offensive pass interference? ‘Cause he pulled it off.
-Fun quote from Dan Dierdorf: “Jay Cutler is one fine athlete.”
-I love my Cutty. After being forced to use a timeout on their first touchdown drive, he angrily (but appropriately) told the crowd to shut the hell up. Then on his second scoring drive, he had to explain to the scrub refs how they needed to reset the play clock after a penalty. Good job Jay!
-Lovie intelligently pulled Brian Urlacher out of the game with a tad over nine minutes left in the third quarter. Why risk any further injury with the next game so close?
This game transformed from an unmitigated disaster into an impressive display. From there it went as most had anticipated, with the Bear offense proving too much for Indy to keep up with. I actually managed to relax in the second half. Now Chicago turns its sights towards Green Bay on Thursday night. Giddy-up.