While the unit looked shaky early on, it’s not out of the question to say that with some seasoning the Bears could develop into arguably the most dangerous offense in the NFC North with all the weapons the team has acquired to put around quarterback Jay Cutler.
Cutler shook off a 1-for-10 start to throw for 333 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 42-yard bomb to rookie Alshon Jeffery in the fourth quarter to put the exclamation point on an explosive Bears performance that also featured running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush combining for 122 yards and three more TDs.
Here’s a closer look:
What it means: The Bears needed to start off with a victory because they face the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. Minnesota and Detroit started off their seasons with victories, so it was important for the Bears to do the same to keep pace in a division that will be one of the league’s most competitive in 2012.
Shaky start: Cutler dramatically improved as the first half progressed, but the Bears know he can’t get off to such a slow start again Thursday night. Cutler completed only one of his first 10 passes, and threw an interception returned for a touchdown by Jerrell Freeman that gave the Colts an early advantage at the 11:23 mark of the first quarter. Cutler’s passer rating after 13 attempts was 0, and he finished the first quarter with a passer rating of 4.9 after completing 3-of-10 for 21 yards. Once Cutler stopped forcing passes to Marshall and the offensive line settled in, the quarterback finished the first half completing 15-of-27 for 228 yards and a touchdown and a passer rating of 80.5.
Andrew Luck makes history: Well, not really, but sort of. Luck starting against Chicago marked just the second time the Bears faced a starting quarterback making his NFL debut. The last time it happened, the Bears matched up against Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Scott Tinsley, who was playing his first NFL game during the 1987 strike season. Chicago smashed the Eagles 35-3 in that outing in front of 4,074 fans as Tinsley completed 7-of-22 passes for 65 yards. The Bears sacked Tinsley’s backup, Guido Merkins, 10 times. Obviously, Luck fared a little better by hitting on 23-of-45 for 309 yards and a TD.
Cutler milestone: Cutler’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall with 5:52 remaining in the second quarter moved the quarterback into sole possession of fourth place in franchise history in career TD passes. Cutler came into the game tied with Ed Brown and Erik Kramer for fourth with 63 TD tosses. Cutler finished the game with 333 yards and two touchdown passes. But Cutler still has plenty of work to do to catch franchise leader Sid Luckman (137 career TD passes).
Forte moves past Sayers: Forte entered the matchup with the Colts needing 46 yards from scrimmage to move past Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers for fourth most yards from scrimmage in franchise history. Forte passed Sayers in the first quarter when he gained 47 of Chicago’s 61 yards on two plays during one of the club’s two first-quarter scoring drives. Forte entered the game with 6,218 yards from scrimmage in 60 outings. Sayers had gained 6,263 yards from scrimmage in 68 games. Forte also became just the third player in Bears history to gain 4,000 career rushing yards and 2,000 receiving. Forte come into the game with 1,985 yards receiving and caught two passes for 32 yards in the first half to move into select company with Walter Payton and Neal Anderson, who rushed for 6,166 yards and gained 2,763 yards receiving during his career.
What’s next: The Bears face a short turnaround going into Thursday night’s matchup on the road against the Packers. So they’ll return to the practice field to work on Monday and Tuesday before using Wednesday as a travel day.