Well people, the 2012 NFL season is upon us, and what a glorious start it was for the Chicago Bears. As a Bears’ fan for pretty much my entire conscious life, I have seen many great Bear defenses take the field. The history of the Bears’ franchise has been blessed with some of the best defensive players in the history of the NFL. As great as the tradition of Bears’ defense has been, the same cannot be said of Bears’ offenses throughout their history. Sure, the Bears have had their share of great running backs, but the situation at QB tells a different story. To this day, the Bears’ franchise leader in passing yards and passing TD’s is still Sid Luckman. Luckman played 12 seasons for the Bears (1939 – 1950) and only twice eclipsed 2,000 yards passing for a season. The fact that Luckman is still the franchise leader in those two passing categories isn’t a knock on Luckman, but a knock on the franchise that it hasn’t been able to find a franchise QB in over 60 years.
That is why the trade the Bears made for Jay Cutler was so important. When the Bears acquired Cutler back in 2009, many felt that the Bears finally had their franchise QB. Now the only problem was he didn’t have anybody to throw the ball to. As bad as the Bears’ QB situation has been, the WR situation is just as bad. The Bears’ leader in receptions in Walter Payton (retired in 1987) with 492, the leader in receiving yards is Johnny Morris (retired in 1967) with 5,059, and the leader in receiving TD’s is Ken Kavanaugh (retired in 1950) with 50. Last season the Bears were 7-3 before Cutler went down with a thumb injury, and that was with a receiving corps in which no one caught more than 40 passes.
After watching yesterday’s game, I think the Bears’ drought in WR is over! The Bears traded for all-pro WR Brandon Marshall in the off-season and drafted rookie Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina. The two of them give the Bears legitimate receiving threats. Both WR’s are tall and have great catch radii. Finally Jay Cutler has real WR’s to whom he can throw the ball. Since the Bears’ passing game is a legitimate threat, this should open up running lanes for veteran RB Matt Forte and newcomer Michael Bush. All of this was on display in Sunday’s game.
I must say though that the game started very badly for the Bears and it brought back memories of Bears’ offenses of the past. The first play from scrimmage for Chicago began with a 12 yard sack of Cutler. That was followed by a false start penalty, which put the Bears into a 2nd and 24 from their own 2 yd line. A Forte 3 yd run and an incomplete pass finished a dismal opening drive. As bad as that was, the next drive was worse. After holding the Colts to a 3-and-out, the Bears were pinned back on their own 3 yd line. The very next play saw LB Jerrell Freeman easily pick off Cutler and return it for a pick-6. That was the bad news. The rest of the game pretty much went the Bears’ way.
After spotting Indianapolis that TD, the Bears scored 17 unanswered points. Michael Bush scored on a 1 yd run midway through the first capping an 11 play, 80 yard drive to tie the score. That was followed by an 11 play, 95 yard drive which culminated in a 3 yd pass from Cutler to Marshall to make the score 14-7 Chicago. Robbie Gould added a 35 yd FG before the Colts’ Donald Brown scored on a relatively easy 18 yd run with 3:17 to go in the half. The Bears, however, went 72 yards on 8 plays to extend their lead back to 10 points with Bush’s 2nd TD of the game.
Matt Forte added a rushing TD of his own on a sweet little 6 yard scamper in the 3rd, and that was followed by Gould’s 2nd FG of the day, this time a 26 yarder. The Colts put together an impressive 12 play, 80 yard drive that ended with QB Andrew Luck’s first NFL TD pass to WR Donnie Avery from 4 yards out in the 4th quarter to bring the score to 34-21 Chicago, but that would be it for the Colts on the day. The Bears sealed the rout with a beautiful 42 yard rainbow pass from Cutler to rookie Alshon Jeffery with 6:08 to go in the game.
THE GOOD: The Bears’ defense harassed first round pick Andrew Luck pretty much all day. The Bears’ defense sacked Luck three times, knocked him around another five times, and intercepted him three times. Welcome to the NFL Andrew Luck. I think young Andrew Luck will be having nightmares of CB Tim Jennings. Jennings made two amazing interceptions of Luck and was involved in the third when he tipped the pass to teammate Chris Conte.
THE BETTER: The Bears’ offense. In the past whenever the Bears scored over 40 points in the game, there was usually a special teams TD or a defensive TD in the box score (oftentimes both). If not, then either the defense of special teams put the offense in a position to score with a short field. Not so this game. All 41 points were legitimate offensive points. The Bears scored on drives of 80, 95, 46, 72, 55, 4, and 80 yards (the 4 yard drive was the result of a fumble recovery on the kickoff). It’s the three scoring drives of 80+ yards that’s impressive to me. It’s not often when the Bears do that three times in one game. Matt Forte had 120 yards of total offense (80 rushing and 40 receiving) with 1 TD. Michael Bush chipped in 42 rushing yards with 2 TD’s, and Brandon Marshall hauled in 9 catches for 119 yards and 1 TD. Alshon Jeffery also had 80 yards receiving on 3 catches with the aforementioned 42 yard TD.
THE BEST: QB Jay Cutler. Cutler is my game MVP. After going 1 for his first 10 passes, he ended up going 21 of 35 for 333 yards passing and 2 TD’s; that gave Cutler a 98.9 rating for the game. Cutler settled down after a rocky start and made the throws that counted. If there was any doubt about his recovering thumb, forget about it. He had really good zip on the ball, and the 42 yard bomb to Jeffery was right on target. Cutler was only sacked twice as his mobility allowed him to escape the pressure and make plays down the field.
NEXT GAME: The Bears have a short week as they travel to Green Bay to play their divisional rivals the Packers. The Bears will have their work cut out for them as the Packers definitely know how to put pressure on the QB and Aaron Rodgers is not Andrew Luck. However, the rest of the Packers defense is suspect and could be exploited by the newly potent Bears offensive attack. It will be an interesting game to watch!