The NFL season kicked off today for the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears.
The Bears came into today's match-up at Soldier Field as heavy favorites, but the game did not start as they had planned.
It took them a little while to get the offense rolling, and once they did, it was an impressive sight to behold.
The Bears ended the game with a 41-21 victory over the Colts. Let's take a look at five things we learned from today's game.
1. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall Connection is Back
The rabid Chicago Bears fan base was enthusiastic beyond belief this past offseason with the news that new general manager Phil Emery traded for Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
No one may have been more excited than Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler targeted Marshall 15 times during the game, connecting with him nine times for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Cutler got off to a horrible start in this game, going 1-10 early on and throwing an interception returned for a touchdown. Fortunately for the Bears, Marshall helped Cutler get back into the game with some nice grabs. Eventually, Cutler dominated the opposition going 21-35 with 333 yards and two touchdowns.
Marshall showed Bears fans how dominant he can be, and what an offense can look like with a true No. 1 wide receiver. The Colts' defensive backs could not contain Marshall inside the 5-yard line. They were called for at least three defensive pass interference penalties all against Marshall.
2. Reggie Wayne Can Still Play
The veteran wide receiver on the Colts reminded everyone that although he may be entering his 11th year in the NFL, his skill set is still as strong as ever. As predicted in this article, Wayne showed up big Sunday, collecting nine receptions for 135 yards.
Rookie Andrew Luck had a tough time most of the afternoon, but he certainly showed glimpses of why he was the first overall draft selection in this year's 2012 NFL Draft. His day was made a lot easier by the amazing catches by Wayne, with two of those nine receptions being one-handed grabs.
It seems that Wayne will have a pretty big year after a disappointing 2011 campaign. Look for Luck to target Wayne a lot throughout the year, as he is certainly their #1 wide receiving option.
3. Matt Forte and Michael Bush Duo Impressive
The Bears went out and signed running back Michael Bush through free agency this year to help solidify the Bears running attack. More importantly, they finally reached a contract extension with Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte.
That has been a disputed problem for the Bears for almost two years, until the two parties agreed to the deal shortly before training camp started last month.
Forte had 80 yards rushing on 16 carries with a touchdown. He also added 40 yards receiving on three catches, with one being a highlight reel, one-handed grab to set the Bears up near the goal line.
Bush ran the ball 12 times for 42 yards and two touchdowns. He showed his versatility with a nifty and agile 20-yard run, but also his toughness and strength with two 1-yard touchdown runs near the goal line. Bush doesn't consider himself a goal line back, but more of a balanced running back who can play in all scenarios. It seems Bush is correct, but he is also one excellent running back near the end zone.
4. Andrew Luck Had Ups and Downs, but His Future is Bright
Luck finished his first NFL game going 23-45 for 309 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also had a lost fumble and ended up with a passer rating of 52.9. Clearly, those are not numbers that the Colts expect Luck to have as the season goes on. It will be a work in progress, but he showed many attributes in this game that show he should become a great NFL quarterback.
He threw the ball with great accuracy most of the day, but the Bears pressure from the defensive line was too much for Luck. They stopped any rhythm he had early in the game, and he was seen overthrowing receivers too often.
One important thing to note is that Luck seems to fit as a leader of this team. He was shown frequently near the bench trying to rally his teammates to a second-half comeback. He also was seen calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, and overall, he communicated with his teammates well and understands he needs to lead the team.
5. The Bears are the Real Deal
The NFC North is arguably the top division in all of the NFL. The Green Bay Packers have the most explosive offense in the league, followed closely by Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions. There was a lot of talk this offseason that with their new additions on offense, the Bears had a chance to compete with both of those teams.
Well, after today, it seems that the Bears offense is as good and as explosive as advertised, and if their defense can stay healthy over the season, the Bears have a chance to make a deep run in the postseason. With so much parity in the NFL the last couple of years, it's clearly difficult to know who will get to the Super Bowl, especially after one game.
The Bears at least showed everyone that they are for real, and will now get ready for a prime time Thursday night match u- against their longtime rival, the Green Bay Packers.