Bears, Jay Cutler overcome slow start
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com September 9, 2012 6:14PM
Chicago, 9/9/12 The Bears Jay Cutler finds the open receiver in the second half of their game against the Colts at Soldier Field September 9, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 9, 2012 8:50PM
Two offensive series were in the books, and nails already had been gnawed down to cuticles all over Chicago. That’s how the city rolls when it comes to the Bears, who can induce panic faster than any tax-audit letter can.
The first series consisted of a sack of Jay Cutler, a false start penalty by tackle Gabe Carimi and a bad pass on third down. The second “series’’ consisted of Cutler throwing a pass right into the hands of Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who ran it four yards for a touchdown.
The belief meter in town was somewhere between “empty” and “maybe the Mayans were right.’’ The offensive line was bad. Cutler was worse. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates were starting to look like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.
But then something happened. Cutler happened. Cutler-Brandon Marshall happened. Cutler zeroed in on Marshall, and that’s an understatement. If Marshall had complained to the coaches that Cutler was staring at him, everyone would have understood.
But when things are down, you look for comfort. You feel around for your security blanket. Cutler and Marshall had been a big success back in Denver. So on a bright Sunday, they played catch in their backyard.
The success spread to the rest of the offense, like an act of kindness might. Matt Forte started seeing daylight instead of shadowy defensive linemen. Earl Bennett got involved. So did Devin Hester. Rookie Alshon Jeffery would make his mark before the day was through.
How do you combat a bad start?
“Throwing,’’ Cutler said, speaking like a true slinger of pigskin.
By the time he was done throwing, the Bears had piled up 333 yards through the air in a 41-21 victory over the rebuilding Colts.
Rough start? What rough start?
“During the course of a year, you’re going to have to fight through some adversity,’’ Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Might as well get it out of the way early on and see what we’re made out of when things aren’t just perfect for us.’’
Afterward, after the scoreboard had stopped smoking, Bears offensive players couldn’t stop lauding one another. That’s how it goes when the machine runs smoothly. Giddiness kicks in. Thus, the questions after Week 1 are: How much better will this offense be with more time together and what’s the over/under on glowing tributes this season?
“Earl’s just a football player,’’ Cutler said of Bennett, who caught three passes for 50 yards. “I love playing with him. As long as I’m a Bear, I hope Earl’s here with me. He brings so much to this team. He’s a guy who kind of flies under the radar, but whenever he has an opportunity, he makes the most of it.’’
That’s how it went Sunday. Most of the good feelings can be traced to the presence of Marshall, obtained in an offseason trade with Miami. The Colts should have been scared to death of him, but they often seemed content to cover him one on one. Cutler threw 12 passes his way in the first half, a ridiculous number, but it meant there eventually was going to be more room and opportunity for any receiver not named “Marshall.’’
When Indianapolis gave Marshall some extra attention in the fourth quarter, Cutler found Jeffery over the middle for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Choose your desired cause of death.
The Bears’ defense was good enough Sunday, intercepting rookie Andrew Luck three times. Linebacker Brian Urlacher should have given his knee the day off but didn’t. He also didn’t distinguish himself in a little more than a half of action. Let’s see what the effect is, good or bad, on his play Thursday in Green Bay.
Cutler completed only one of his first 10 passes, but he wasn’t the only one who had a bad start Sunday. Cheering Soldier Field fans forced him to call a timeout at the Colts’ 1-yard line in the first quarter.
“Please, please, please let’s tone it down a little bit,’’ he pleaded afterward.
On a positive note, it looks like Cutler and Marshall will give Bears fans plenty of opportunities to learn proper red-zone etiquette this season.