Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

September, 10, 2012
9/10/12
1:00
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After the Chicago Bears' 41-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com
    After so much preseason talk about quarterback Jay Cutler's reunion with receiver Brandon Marshall, it's pretty amazing that Cutler was able to target Marshall on 15 passes. (He caught nine for 119 yards and a touchdown.) None went for longer than 24 yards, but you would imagine that any opponent's first priority will be to limit Marshall's touches. That seems to me an early commentary on the Bears' offensive diversity and balance. Too much attention on Marshall leaves some dangerous playmakers unattended, be it Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester or Matt Forte. Many of Marshall's routes were of the shorter, quick-hitting variety. You wonder if defenses ultimately will choose to give the Bears those plays to guard against bigger downfield passes.
  2. The 2012 draft paid immediate Week 1 dividends. Defensive end Shea McClellin broke free on a first-quarter spin move to rush Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who overthrew the ensuing pass. Jeffery caught three passes for 80 yards, including a 42-yard score on a post route that sealed the game in the fourth quarter. And tight end/fullback Evan Rodriguez proved a devastating blocker out of the H-back/fullback position, setting up a number of early plays. His kickout block in the first quarter set up Forte's 32-yard run down the left hashmarks. Rodriguez showed during training camp that he could be an intriguing target in the passing game, but I'm not sure if anyone realized how competent he could be as a blocker in space.
  3. Linebacker Brian Urlacher sat out the final 1 1/2 quarters to preserve his knee and cornerback Charles Tillman missed a good portion of the game because of a leg injury that isn't believed to be severe. But a number of defensive players stepped up in their absences. Cornerback Tim Jennings had two interceptions, and his leaping grab of an underthrown Luck pass reminded me of our discussion on the importance of the vertical jump for short cornerbacks. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Henry Melton recorded two sacks and had an additional tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
We noted that the Colts' outside linebacker duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis would prove a test for the Bears' recalibrated offensive line, and the early going was not encouraging. On the first drive alone, Mathis had a sack and right tackle Gabe Carimi was called for a false start. Cutler was less harried as the game went on, but it's worth asking how much of that was due to better pass protection and how much can be attributed to Freeney's ankle injury. It's a lot easier to protect against one elite pass-rusher. The jury is still out on that one.

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