Who guessed Jay Cutler would throw a touchdown within the first five minutes of the Bears’ opening game? Now, who guessed it would be for the opposing team?
Cutler and the Bears started Sunday looking about as bad as any Division III college team could ever hope to look. A quick three-and-out – which included a sack and a botched shotgun snap – was then followed up with Cutler throwing a quick pick-six to the Colts’ Jerrell Freeman. In fact, Jay Cutler started the game by going only 1 for 11 through the air, but Chicago would settle in from there.
1st Quarter -- 3/13, 21 yards, 0 TDS, 1 INT
Last 3 Quarters – 18/22, 312 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Sunday marked the first time in four seasons Jay Cutler once again had the 6-4 Brandon Marshall to sling the ball to – and Cutler wasted no time in rekindling their Denver connection. The two hooked up nine times for 119 yards and a score. Jay looked Marshall’s way 15 total times in the game and was able to showcase the kinds of throws he was simply unable to make with Bears’ receivers in seasons passed.
Rookie Alshon Jeffery was also able to shine as his racked up three catches for 80 yards and one touchdown in his NFL debut. Earl Bennett contributed 50 more yards as the Bears’ passing attack tallied more yards through the air on Sunday than they did in any game during 2011.
Another pleasant sight for Bears’ fans was the return of Matt Forte to the field after a knee injury cost him the end of last season. In Forte’s true duel-threat vintage, the Bears’ feature back was able to pick 80 yards on the ground with one touchdown while also adding another 40 yards receiving.
Aside from the abysmal way the Bears started the game, Chicago was able to show why so many people have them being able to give the Green Bay Packers a run for the NFC North crown this year. The question marks from last season’s team all seemed to get answered during their 41-21 throttling of the Indianapolis Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Last season Chicago had trouble in short-yardage situations, where Matt Forte was only able to convert 2 of 5 attempts. New GM, Phil Emery, pried Michael Bush away from the Bay Area and his signing immediately showed dividends on Sunday.
Bush scored twice on two goal-to-go situations, while also allowing Forte the ability to rest on the sidelines as he closer the game out with victory already in hand. The 42 yards in the box score does not tell just how valuable the addition of Michael Bush may be to the sustained health of Matt Forte moving forward.
The other big question mark from last season was seeing how the offensive line would be able to protect Jay Cutler. I’m sure memories of Cutler lying face down in the Soldier field dirt splashed across the minds of every Chicago fan as the Bears O-line gave up a sack on the very first play from scrimmage Sunday.
But after the shaky start, the offensive line did a solid job by only allowing one additional sack the rest of the game. Cutler certainly helped out the group with his ability to move in the pocket and escape from pressure, but overall, this game was a positive sign for an offensive line which, in the past, has given Cutler about as much protection as
As for the defensive side of the ball, the Bears were able to pressure Andrew Luck and the Colts all day, as they picked off the rookie QB three times and forced three fumbles for five total takeaways.
Brian Urlacher was able to return field without incident after an injury plagued off season made him a question mark going into 2012. The Pro-Bowl linebacker picked up two tackles and one pass deflection in limited action-
Heading into next week’s Thursday night showdown with the Green Bay Packers, the Bears have a lot of positives to take away from their Week 1 victory. However, the one issue looming large will be the health of corner Charles Tillman as he had to leave the game early with a leg injury. It will be very important to have “Peanut” Tillman back on the field when they go up against Aaron Rodgers and the vaunted Packers’ offense.
All in all, Week 1 is in the books and the Chicago Bears are sitting where they wanted to be a 1-0. Brandon Marshall looked every bit the wide receiver they expected to be getting when they traded for him, which made Jay Cutler look like the once Pro-Bowl quarterback he had been in Denver. Forte and Urlacher played and stayed healthy, as the team showed they should be a team to be reckoned with all year long.
Indianapolis Colts Chicago Bears
Andrew Luck Jay Cutler
23/45, 309 YDS, 1 TD, 3 INT 21/35, 333 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT
Donald Brown Matt Forte
9 CAR, 48 YDS, 1 TD 16 CAR, 80 YDS, 1 TD
Reggie Wayne Brandon Marshall
9 REC, 135 YDS, 0 TD 9 REC, 119 YDS, 1 TD