David Haugh's In the Wake of the News
10:08 PM EDT, September 9, 2012
Listen up, Bears fans.
Your quarterback had even more to say Sunday after the statement the Bears issued to the rest of the NFL with a 41-21 victory over the Colts at Soldier Field. And Jay Cutler was even polite.
"Please, please, please, let's tone it down a little bit when we're down on the 20,'' Cutler said. "You're more than welcome to yell, scream, do whatever you want to do after the score. But, please, let's quiet the stadium down and save it for after the score. Thank you.''
Everybody in the end-zone seats Cutler tried in vain to shush, you are forgiven. Everybody unfamiliar with the etiquette of cheering for an offensive football team, you will learn.
Chicago simply doesn't know how to act yet with a Bears offense this explosive.
"We're trying to build a new thing here in Chicago,'' Brandon Marshall said.
Around here, Cutler and Marshall are in no danger of patent infringement when it comes to building a big-play offense like the model we saw in the season opener.
After a shaky start, the Bears offense looked Super. Take away Cutler's first four snaps and sports-talk radio dialers would have to call their moms on Monday because little else merited complaints.
"You kind of have to pick what you're going to do against us,'' Cutler said.
The variety of options allows Cutler to overcome the type of adversity he created early when he played as if he didn't realize the preseason was over. Cutler turned a simple out route to Matt Forte into a 7-0 deficit when he left the ball inside and Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman intercepted it and returned it 4 yards for a touchdown.
"If we weren't able to overcome it, then it would have been a really bad thing,'' Cutler said.
Accepting responsibility, Cutler blamed bad footwork. Maybe he just felt disoriented from being in a huddle full of bona fide playmakers for the first time since becoming a Bear.
Five receivers caught a pass for 24 yards or more and three wide receivers — Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett — combined for 249 yards. A sizzling Cutler completed 20 of 25 for 320 yards with a 145.3 passer rating after starting 1-for-10 with that dreadful interception.
For a while, it appeared the Indy 500 would be the Bears yardage total. They fell only 72 short in what was the Bears' fifth-highest total under Lovie Smith. The running game clicked with Michael Bush's two short-yardage touchdowns complementing Matt Forte's 80 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries just as general manager Phil Emery imagined. The offensive line gave up only two sacks — one in the final 69 snaps. The balance every good game plan needs came courtesy of offensive coordinator Mike Tice with 35 pass plays compared with 33 runs.
Not since 1986 against the Browns have the Bears scored as many points in an opener. Impossible to measure statistically will be the credibility the Bears offense gained around the league by delivering on the promise of the offseason.
Everybody expected Marshall and Cutler to pick up where they left off in Denver four years ago and Marshall's nine catches for 119 yards only made the Colts' decision to play man coverage against him all the odder.
"I thought Indy wasn't scared of him,'' Cutler said.
The Packers will be. So should most of the Bears' remaining opponents, which made Jeffery's fourth-quarter, 42-yard TD reception meaningful to more than just fantasy-football owners. When Jeffery came down with his first NFL touchdown, I wondered how many times in Cutler's previous three seasons he had thrown similarly beautiful spirals lesser receivers failed to convert into six points.
I knew I never had seen a Bears wide receiving corps potentially this dangerous — the same conclusion most NFL defensive coordinators will reach.
"For our team it was important,'' Smith said of the big plays in the passing game. "Because what we say we're going to be as a football team is important to let everybody see right away what that can be and what it can look like.''
The Bears looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders because of the way they got off the bus running pass routes nobody could cover.
An offense diversified enough to score 41 points and control the ball for 35:28 helped prevent the Colts from hurting a vulnerable Bears defense on the ground and helped their pass rush take (Andrew) Luck out of the equation. An offense potent enough to build a 20-point lead allowed Smith to rest Brian Urlacher after the Bears saw enough of the rusty linebacker to know what he can — and can't — do.
An offense with Cutler connecting with Marshall only promises to create more noise. Consider yourself warned, season ticket holders.