The Bears' season opener Sunday was one of the most anticipated in years due mostly to the potential of a revamped offense stocked with a multitude of weapons.
|Michael Bush tallied 42 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 carries.|
After an inauspicious start, the unit was just as explosive as advertised, erasing an early 7-0 deficit with an onslaught of points in a 41-21 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field.
The Bears scored on five straight possessions at one point—not counting a kneel-down at the end of the first half—to open a 34-14 lead with three touchdowns and two field goals.
"What we say we're going to be as a football team, I think it's important to let everybody see right away what that can be and what it can look like," said coach Lovie Smith. "We have weapons on the outside. But you want to see it out there on the field and they did a great job today."
A partisan crowd of 60,695 was dead silent early when Jay Cutler, dropping back into his own end zone, had a swing pass intended for Matt Forte intercepted by Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman and returned three yards for a touchdown less than four minutes into the game.
Cutler opened by completing just 1 of 10 passes before rebounding to connect on 11 of his next 12. He finished 21 of 35 for 333 yards with two touchdowns and a 98.9 passer rating.
"We started off on a wrong foot, but we picked it up," said receiver Devin Hester. "We came back out and finished the game. That's the most important thing. Sometimes you're going to start out slow, but the great teams know how to handle adversity and get better as the game goes."
Brandon Marshall made a huge impact, catching nine passes for 119 yards including a three-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 14-7 lead they would never relinquish. Rookie Alshon Jeffery also got into the end zone, hauling in a 42-yard TD pass from Cutler in the fourth quarter.
"Offensively, we talked a lot about explosive plays and getting all the guys involved," Smith said.
"After we settled down a little bit, Jay distributed the ball around.
"I thought [coordinator] Mike Tice and the rest of the offensive staff had a great game plan to get things moving. Not just the big plays but every time it seemed like Indy was able to get a little momentum we matched it with a drive to score."
Forte rushed for 80 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, setting up the Bears' first two TDs with a 32-yard run and an impressive one-handed 31-yard reception with a linebacker draped on his back. Fellow running back Michael Bush had two 1-yard touchdown runs in the first half.
"I expected it to be like that," Forte said. "It didn't start out that fast. I think we had first-game jitters. We then showed the resiliency of the offense to come back after giving up a turnover and a touchdown. We just came back and put a lot of points on the board."
The Bears generated five takeaways, four on defense and one on special teams. Cornerback Tim Jennings had two interceptions of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and created a third when he deflected a pass that safety Chris Conte picked off in the end zone.
In his first NFL game, Luck completed 23 of 45 passes for 309 yards with one TD, three interceptions and a 52.9 passer rating. Reggie Wayne had nine receptions for 135 yards.
With a comfortable lead, Smith rested middle linebacker Brian Urlacher for most of the second half. The eight-time Pro Bowler was in uniform for the first time this year after missing more than a month of training camp and all four preseason games with a knee injury.
"After Brian Urlacher got I think about 35 reps or so, I chose to take him out," Smith said. "Brian wanted to play the entire game. When we told him he was coming out, it's not like he told us that it was a great idea. [But] he knows that there's a big picture.
"We wanted to get him a little bit of work. It's his first action. It's like in a preseason game. You're not going to let a guy go that entire time unless you have to, and we didn't have to today."
Smith would have preferred to have seen the Bears dominate from the opening whistle. But he was happy with how his team responded after they stumbled out of the gate Sunday.
"Through the course of the year you're going to have to fight through some adversity," Smith said. "You might as well get it out of the way early on to see what you're made of."