The Bears’ new high-powered offense started with a bang.
It shot itself in the foot on the opening possession and then imploded the next time it got the ball.
On the first play from scrimmage, Jay Cutler, the most sacked quarterback in the NFL over the previous three years, was dropped for a 12-yard loss. The next play was a false start by right tackle Gabe Carimi.
On the first play of the next possession, Cutler, from his 3-yard line, hit Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman in the numbers for a pick-6 that required just a 4-yard return.
Cutler completed just 1 of his first 10 passes for 13 yards. Four of the incompletions were intended for Brandon Marshall, whose presence was supposed to be the key component in the Bears’ 2012 state-of-the-art offense.
But after that rocky start, the Marshall Plan worked to perfection in an easy 41-21 season-opening victory over Indianapolis.
The rest of the way Cutler was 20 of 25 for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns and finished with a 98.9 passer rating. He was sacked only one other time and was rarely pressured throughout the day, thanks to a maligned offensive line that played extremely well.
“I thought the offensive line did a great job all day long,” Cutler said. “In that fourth quarter, we had all day to throw. Right before halftime we had all day to throw.”
Marshall, who was targeted 15 times, finished with a team-high 9 catches and 115 yards, including a 3-yard TD that put the Bears up for good at 14-7 early in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t the start that we wanted,” Marshall said of the first two possessions, “but it was a great start to the season. Bad start to the game, great start to the season.”
Cutler joked that after his horrible start he felt pressure to rediscover the magic with Marshall, his former go-to guy when they were young Denver Broncos.
“We knew if we didn’t you guys would have a field day, so we had to do something,” Cutler said. “We started off slow. That was a little bit of a concern on my part. My feet were all over the place, missing some balls.”
The most encouraging aspect of Sunday’s offensive resurrection was the across-the-board contributions that should discourage future opponents from constantly doubling down on Marshall.
Rookie Alshon Jeffery had 3 catches for 80 yards, including a 42-yard TD grab that concluded the scoring.
Earl Bennett had 3 catches for 50 yards, and running back Matt Forte also caught 3 balls for 40 yards.
Those three, Marshall and Devin Hester (2 catches, 27 yards) all had at least 1 reception of more than 20 yards.
Forte also picked 80 yards on 16 carries (5.0-yard average), including a 6-yard TD run, and Michael Bush added 42 yards on 12 totes, including a pair of 1-yard TD plunges.
“I get a lot of excitement when I see those guys going (well),” Marshall said. “I’ve seen a lot of double-coverage, a lot of push coverage my way. (But) it’s really hard to do that when you’ve got guys like Hester, Alshon and Earl on your side.
“So I look forward to a lot of 1-on-1s this year because it’s impossible for them to (double me) with the other guys on the other side of the ball.”
While coach Lovie Smith didn’t enjoy the staggering start and the 7-0 deficit against a team that was starting a rookie quarterback after a 2-14 finish last season, it did provide an opportunity to overcome misfortune.
“My perfect scenario would be scoring the first time, getting a take-away and scoring again after that,” said Smith, whose team ultimately forced 5 turnovers.
“But eventually, through the course of the year, you’re going to have to fight through some adversity. You might as well get it out of the way early on and see what you’re made of. I thought they fought through it with no panic on the sideline or any of that.”
The defense allowed 356 total yards, including 309 passing yards by the rookie Andrew Luck, but it also took 3 picks off the No. 1 overall choice in the draft.
Seven-year veteran cornerback Tim Jennings, a Colt for his first four seasons, had the first 2-interception game of his career, and he deflected the pass that safety Chris Conte intercepted. The 2 picks also matched Jennings’ single-season high in the NFL.
Defensive tackle Henry Melton had 2 of the Bears’ 3 sacks of Luck, and backup defensive end Corey Wootton had the other, which also included a forced fumble that was recovered by Julius Peppers.
“We did some good things,” Peppers said. “We’re not going to get too high. It’s one game. We have a short week coming up. We have to prepare for the next game.”
That would be Thursday night against the Packers in Green Bay. A slow start is not recommended.
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