If the play of the Bears' first team offense in Saturday night's 33-31 victory over the Redskins was an indication of what's to come, it could be a special season.
On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jay Cutler was well protected by the oft-maligned offensive line. He was able to wait for Brandon Marshall to get behind Redskins cornerback Cedric Griffin, and he hit the 6-foot-4 wide receiver for a 41-yard gain.
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It was a sight familiar to Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who was the Broncos' head coach when Marshall caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards with Cutler as his quarterback in 2007 and '08.
Three plays later, Cutler and Marshall collaborated on a 20-yard hookup. Then the quarterback fired a strike over the middle to slanting rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for a 16-yard gain to the Washington 1-yard line, where Michael Bush banged in for the score.
"It's fun to get back out there," said Cutler, who didn't play in the first preseason game, which was the day after his son was born. "Last game it was tough to only watch. We threw the first one to B. (Marshall), and we started rolling a little bit."
Not to be outdone, the defense came up big late in the first quarter. Israel Idonije sacked Robert Griffin III and stripped the first-round pick. Julius Peppers recovered for the Bears at the Redskins' 8-yard line, and Bush scored on the next play.
Idonije, who had just 5 sacks al of last season, had 2½ sacks of Griffin in the first quarter.
But it was the offense that electrified the Soldier Field crowd.
When Cutler left after four possessions, the Bears led 17-0 early in the second quarter.
"We started fast and we moved the ball," coach Lovie Smith said. "I felt like we needed to throw the ball, and Jay was outstanding. He spread the ball around to all the receivers. I was pleased with what our offensive starters did."
Cutler wasn't sacked, although he scrambled away from danger twice for 9 yards. But he also utilized almost all of the weapons that have given the Bears the potential for their most explosive offense in years.
Devin Hester caught 2 passes for 22 yards, including an 18-yarder that helped set up the first touchdown. Earl Bennett's 19-yard reception of a Cutler bullet over the middle helped set up Robbie Gould's 45-yard field goal that gave the Bears a 17-0 lead with 11:06 left in the first half.
"We have a lot of guys who can play football," Cutler said. "You bring in the second-team running back (Bush), and he's making guys miss in the hole and scoring touchdowns."
Cutler completed 7 of 13 passes for 122 yards and a passer rating of 86.1 before turning it over to backup Jason Campbell.
Campbell, who played through the third quarter, was sacked three times, all in the second quarter. But he completed 9 of 15 passes for 141 yards and a passer rating of 91.2.
No. 4 quarterback Matt Blanchard played only the final possession, but he guided the Bears into position for Robbie Gould's game-winning 57-yard field goal.
The offensive line performed better than it did in the preseason opener, but it's far from a finished product. Starter J'Marcus Webb shared time at left tackle with Chris Williams, while left guard starter Chris Spencer shared time with Chilo Rachal.
Spencer and Rachal each committed a false start penalty, a pet peeve of offensive coordinator Mike Tice. And Campbell was sacked twice in a three-play sequence late in the second quarter with Webb and Spencer in the game.
"The offensive line knows it starts with them," Cutler said. "If they play well, we'll take care of the rest."
Smith was cautious in his praise of the O-line.
"They gave us a chance," he said. "For the most part, they did a decent job.