Bears show some mettle in 41-21 win over Colts

SHARE Bears show some mettle in 41-21 win over Colts

The Bears impressively responded to adversity in their season-opening 41-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field. On Thursday night, the Green Bay Packers will tell the Bears whether the adversity of falling behind 7-0 in the first four minutes or the response of outscoring the Colts 34-7 to take control was the defining facet of the game.

”My perfect scenario would be scoring the first time, getting a takeaway and scoring after that,” Bears coach Love Smith. ”[But] throughout 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 to see what you’re made of.

”Things are going to be perfect for you and I thought they fought through it with no panic on the sideline or any of that.”

The Bears scored three rushing touchdowns inside the 10-yard line and Jay Cutler passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns as the Bears passed for 330 or more yards and rushed for 100 or more yards for the first time in Smith’s nine seasons as head coach.

Cutler was 1-of-10 for 13 yards late in the first quarter but finished 21-of-35 for 33 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for a 98.9 passer rating. Brandon Marshall had nine receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Alshon Jeffery had three catches for 80 yards and a 42-yard touchdown from Cutler in the fourth quarter.

After a huge buildup of high expectations in the offseason and preseason, the Bears’ offense opened the 2012 season in comical fashion. Cutler was sacked by Robert Mathis for a 12-yard loss on the Bears’ first offensive play of the game. Gabe Carimi was called for a false start on the second offensive play of the game. After Matt Forte gained three yards and a cloud of dust on an inside run, Cutler took a low-snap and threw incomplete for a discouraging three-and-out.

It got worse before it got better. Special teams contributed to the difficulty as Devin Hester let a punt go over his head, only to have the Colts’ Joe Lefeged save the ball as it was bounding into the end zone and teammate Justin Hickman down it at the Bears 3-yard line.

On the next play, Cutler tried to throw a pass to Forte in the flat and it was easily picked off by linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who returned it four yards for a stunning touchdown and a 7-0 Colts lead with 11:23 left in the first quarter.

On the enusing series, Cutler finally found Marshall for a 13-yard gain on third-and-10. But it was the offensive line and ground game that put the Bears back on their feet. Forte gained 32 yards to the Cotls 35 and 15 yards to the 1 before Michael Bush scored on second-and-goal to tie the game.

It was all Bears from there as the defense contained and confused rookie quarterback Andrew Luck (23-of-45 for 309 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions) and Cutler started connecting with Marshall and the rest of his receivers.

”Well, we new if we didn’t [get it together], you guys would have a field day, so we had to do something,” Cutler told reporters after the game. ”We started off slow. I think that was a little bit of concern on my part. My feet were all over the place, missing some balls.

”I thought the offensive line did a great job all day long. In that fourth quarter we had all day to throw. Right before halftime we had all day to throw.”

The Bears had five takeaways and no giveaways after Cutler’s pick-six. Cutler threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Marshall that gave the Bears a 14-7 lead. Cornerback Tim Jennings had a dazzling interception of a deep ball intended for Donnie Avery that helped the Bears take a 17-7 lead.

Jennings had another interception in the second half and tipped a pass in the end zone that safety Chris Conte intercepted. Corey Wootton forced a fumble with a sack of Luck that Julius Peppers recovered while on his back. And J.T. Thomas forced a fumble on a kickoff return that Kelvin Hayden recovered.

After Donald Brown scored on an 18-yard run to get the Colts to 17-14 with 5:32 left in the first half, Cutler drove the Bears to a touchdown, parlaying a 25-yard pass to Earl Bennett into Bush’s second one-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 24-14 halftime lead.

The Bears’ victory ended up being so complete that the loss of cornerback Charles Tillman to a lower leg injury in the first quarter was barely noticed. Brian Urlacher, playing for the first time since suffering sprained knee ligaments in Week 17 last season, had two tackles and a pass defense and sat out most of the second half after the Bears took a 34-14 lead.

”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.”

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