Sep 9, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE
The Bears started the 2012 season with a blowout win over the Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field. SB Nation Chicago's Ricky O'Donnell thinks it was the perfect debut.
Jay Cutler has never been characterized as the most willing spokesperson, but the Chicago Bears quarterback still found time to deliver an impromptu PSA to a raucous Soldier Field crowd on Sunday vs. the Indianapolis Colts. Before Cutler would slam the door on a Week 1 victory by closing the game 20-for-25 for 320 yards, he stormed off the field in disgust of the home crowd. Cutler burned a timeout midway through the first quarter as the Bears made their initial trip inside the red zone, flailing his arms as he walked off the field. If the universal sign for "quiet down" didn't get the message across, maybe a few lip readers in the audience were able to relay the message. Cutler appeared to tell Soldier Field to "shut up", with a certain four-letter curse word proceeding the request.
On behalf of Bears fans everywhere, I'd like to apologize, Jay. You just have to understand the type of heretofore unseen offensive explosion you engineered on Sunday will work this football drunk city into a loud, delirious frenzy.
The congregation would eventually heed Cutler's advice and Michael Bush would punch it in for the first of five Bears touchdowns on the day. What started like a recurring nightmare finished just as joyfully as everyone had hoped: the Bears totaled 428 yards of offense, the defense forced the Indy offense into five turnovers and the Chicago had an easy, blowout win to kick-start a season so many truly believe can end in glory.
This wasn't exactly the equivalent of surgical offensive execution for Jay Cutler, PhD. and the Bears' offense. It was far too sloppy for that. But the results were unarguable and so were the emotions triggered: Bears football has never been this fun.
The identity shift is fully underway, though it took some time. The Bears' first drive on Sunday started with a sack and then a false start. On Chicago's next drive following a three-and-out, Cutler threw a pick-six to the Indy defense on the first play of the series. If only for a moment, doubt crept in. Perhaps the offensive line that went unfixed during the offseason really would drown the Bears' Super Bowl aspirations before they ever got off the ground. But everything clicked somewhere along the way, and the Bears showcased the powerful all-around team display Chicago had spent the summer fantasizing about.
The performance the Bears registered on Sunday was bigger than one man, though it was apparent a single individual changed the complexion of everything. Brandon Marshall finished with nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in his Chicago Bears debut, and it didn't even feel like his best effort. If this is a Grade: B game from Marshall, the Bears' offense is going to be able to do some inspirational things.
What became apparent early was that Marshall doesn't even need to be open to receive a pass. Cutler, who spent his first three years in Chicago in dire need of a weapon with Marshall's size and ability, targeted No. 15 15 times on Sunday, nine more than any other receiver. Triple coverage? It doesn't matter. If Marshall is on the field, Cutler has faith his primary target can come down with the ball.
For as gaudy as Cutler's final numbers were, there was still a bit of room for improvement in the passing game. Cutler's 'gunslinger' mentality will likely only be amped up this season with the added weapons, and the Colts had several chances at interceptions a more competent team would have converted. Cutler will never proceed with the caution of Tom Brady, so get used to those turnover opportunities. If the Bears are putting up 40+ points though, it might not matter.
Overshadowed in the passing outbreak was a stellar effort from the ground game. Matt Forte and Michael Bush combined for 122 yards on 28 carries, but the production felt even better than that. Forte also made a highlight reel one-handed catch on a screen pass that counted for 31 yards. Bush hammered home two touchdowns, Forte added one himself just for the sanity of his fantasy owners. The offensive line looked good run blocking, and it might be wise to run even more often moving forward.
The Bears have a well-rounded offense. Who would have ever thought we'd see the day?
Don't think the defense went unnoticed, either. Tim Jennings' first interception will endure as a season-long highlight. Chris Conte's end zone pick of rookie Andrew Luck wasn't bad, either. The Bears improved to 43-9 when winning the turnover battle under Lovie Smith. Our lives as football fans have rarely seemed this good.
And now, already, it's Green Bay week. The Bears travel to Lambeau on Thursday for a Week 2 showdown with their division rival, the one who went 15-1 last season but lost on Sunday to a mighty 49ers team. It's a shame it has to be a Thursday meeting, because a game that should count as the ultimate litmus test for these new-look Bears now appears to come with an asterisk either way. Short rest is no fun, particularly when you're preparing for an offense as pristine as the one ran by Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay remains a beast the Bears will have to confront. It's OK, though. After that Week 1 effort, the Bears and their fans aren't shying away from any challenges.