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Bears defeat Colts 41-21 in home opener

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) points as he calls play from line scrimmage against Indianapolis Colts during first half

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) points as he calls a play from the line of scrimmage against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: September 10, 2012 11:17AM

The Bears couldn’t have had an uglier start to the 2012 season.

After the Indianapolis Colts won the toss and deferred at Soldier Field, the Bears get a modest return from Devin Hester. Then, on the first play from scrimmage, tight end Kellen Davis missed a block of Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, and Jay Cutler was sacked for a 12-yard loss. On the next play, right tackle Gabe Carimi is flagged for a false start, then Matt Forte get a three-yard run. Cutler’s 3rd and 21 attempt to Alshon Jeffery missed, and the Bears punted.

The next series was even worse, with Cutler telegraphing a pass to Forte, and Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman jumping it, picking it off and cruising into the end zone from four yards out to score.

The Bears, though, couldn’t have had a prettier finish.

Midway through the fourth quarter, after gashing the Colts for some runs, Cutler dropped back and bombed a post-pattern touchdown to rookie receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who caught the ball in stride.

That put the Bears up 41-21, the final score.

There are things for coach Lovie Smith to nitpick: the energetic start by the Colts, and the lackluster start by his Bears; the pick-six thrown by Cutler; and the sometimes erratic play of his offensive line.

But, overall, the Bears did what they were expected to against an opponent in the midst of a rebuild centered around No. 1 pick Andrew Luck: they dominated.

Sure, they took some time to assert themselves. But, by the third quarter, the game was well in hand.

After falling behind 7-0, the Bears put together a methodical drive, with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive sparked by rookie tight end Evan Rodriguez, a fourth-round pick. Lined up in the backfield as a blocker, Rodriguez had textbook blocks to spring Forte for runs of 32 and 15 yards. That set up a one-yard touchdown run by bruising back Michael Bush, who scored twice from short yardage before half time.

By and large, the Bears defense did a nice job against Luck, who was just three of seven for 26 yards in the first quarter. And aside from two brilliant, diving catches by veteran Reggie Wayne, Luck didn’t do anything to distinguish himself.

He had Donnie Avery open down his team’s sideline, but his pass was underthrown, and Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, who had a strong preseason, timed it perfectly and leaped high to make an acrobatic interception.

After the Bears took a 24-14 lead, the Colts got the ball back with 39 seconds left, and Luck completed four consecutive passes for 59 yards, setting up a 37-yard field goal for Adam Vinatieri. But, he missed the field goal, wide right.

In the first half, both clubs were hurt by injuries to key defenders. Perennial Pro Bowl player Dwight Freeney suffered an ankle injury early in the first quarter, while Bears cornerback Charles Tillman had a leg injury that sidelined him.

After the opening series of the third quarter, with the Bears up by 20, Smith shelved middle linebacker Brian Urlacher for the remainder of the game. Nick Roach swung over to the middle, as he’d done throughout the preseason, and Geno Hayes stepped in at strongside linebacker.

The Bears now prepare for a key showdown with the Green Bay Packers Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

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