Bears romp to victory in season opener
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall weren't about to let Andrew Luck upstage them. Instead, they played like they'd never been apart.
Cutler threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, Marshall added 119 yards receiving with a TD, and the Chicago Bears spoiled Luck's debut, beating the Indianapolis Colts 41-21 Sunday in the season opener.
"We got the guys," Marshall said. "We have the pieces. We have the coaches."
Matt Forte ran for 80 yards and a touchdown to go with 40 yards receiving. Newcomer Michael Bush added two TD runs, and the defense did its part, holding Luck in check.
He was 23 of 45 for 309 yards with a 4-yard TD pass to Donnie Avery early in the fourth. But Luck also lost a fumble, got sacked three times and threw three interceptions -- two to Tim Jennings -- in an up-and-down start for a rookie with huge shoes to fill. All he has to do is prove the Colts were right to take him with the No. 1 pick in the draft and part with Peyton Manning after he missed last season with a neck injury.
"There will be a lot of positives, a lot of negatives, we'll try to learn from it," Luck said. "I'm still disappointed fresh off what happened but we'll get over it."
Reggie Wayne, one of Manning's old targets, caught nine passes for 135 yards. But it was a familiar result for a team with new management and a new coach in Chuck Pagano after winning just two games.
Then again, it was hardly a surprise.
The Bears are eyeing big things, and they wound up with their highest point total since they scored 48 in a win over Detroit on Oct. 4, 2009.
With their Pro Bowl running back and strong-armed quarterback leading the way, they racked up 428 yards -- 287 while building a 10-point halftime lead in their first game with Mike Tice as coordinator.
Forte's 6-yard run early in the third quarter and Robbie Gould's field goal after LaVon Brazill fumbled away the ensuing kickoff made it 34-14.
Cutler shook off a rough start and completed 21 of 35 passes. He got sacked by Robert Mathis for a 12-yard loss on the game's first play from scrimmage, a familiar site for the Bears, and had an interception returned 3 yards for a touchdown by Jerrell Freeman on the second possession. But Chicago caught a big break when the Colts' Dwight Freeney left with a sprained an ankle in the first quarter.
The Bears believe they are poised for a playoff run after injuries wrecked a promising season a year ago, sending them to an 8-8 finish. New general manager Phil Emery revamped the roster and brought in a go-to receiver, reuniting Cutler with his old friend from Denver in Marshall in that blockbuster trade with Miami.
"The chemistry he has with 15 (Marshall) dating back to their time together showed up today," Pagano said.
Cutler said the opportunities for Marshall to make plays were there.
"I thought Indy, they weren't really scared of him," Cutler said. "They were going to let him make plays if he was capable of making plays. They wanted to stop the run, and they were going to play man against us and try to beat us outside."
One big concern is Brian Urlacher's left knee after he initially injured it in the finale last season and had it scoped last month. The eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker practiced this week for the first time since July 31, and there was some thought that he should sit this one out, with a trip to Green Bay on Thursday. Instead, he started and coach Lovie Smith pulled him from the game after things got out of hand even though he wanted to stay in it.
"I don't like to leave the game, but he's the head coach, so I do what he says," Urlacher said.
Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman limped off the field with what Smith said was a lower leg injury. He appeared to be favoring his right leg after Indianapolis punted on its first possession and came back for the next defensive series before sitting out the rest of the way.
The Colts were missing receiver Austin Collie, who was held out because of a concussion, and their defense took a hit when Freeney rolled his ankle on a low block early in the game.
That happened on the Bears' first scoring drive, which wiped out a 7-0 deficit and quieted the groans that were rumbling through Soldier Field.
That sack on Cutler was an all-too-familiar sight, and Freeman's touchdown return on a short swing pass intended for Forte to start the second possession wasn't what the Bears had in mind.
"When you come out and give up a sack, that's not playing well," Forte said. "That's just a lack of effort right there, and then, we throw a pick-6. It's just we're not focusing. We had to get that out of the way, and as you could see, it looked like everybody was focused on all the drives after that."
They quickly erased that deficit, with a 32-yard run around the left end by Forte and a 15-yard spin through the middle leading to Bush's 1-yard scoring run. And they grabbed a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter on Cutler's 3-yard pass to Marshall. That came after a neat one-handed grab by Forte, who leapfrogged a defender while turning a short pass into a 31-yard gain.
A deep pass by Luck intended for Avery got picked off by a leaping Jennings. That led to a field goal by Gould, making it a 17-7, and the Bears led 24-14 at the half.
"Bad start to the game, great start to the season," Marshall said.