The Chicago Bears opened up the 2008 season with an upset shocker of the Indianapolis Colts in the Colts debut of their new stadium. No one gave the Bears a chance to compete in this game except for a few Bears faithful and the players came through.
The final score of 29-13 paints a clear picture of how the Bears were able to gain control of the game. In the post-game interviews the players and coach Lovie Smith made the game plan sound very simple. The Bears still feel they could have won the Super Bowl two years ago if they had been able to stop the Colts running game. The Bears defense consistently put eight men on the line of scrimmage and was hell bent on stopping the running game. Add a few great offensive plays and the Bears were able to take care of business.
I don’t think a lot of experts were shocked when the Bears defense played well but the big plays made by the offense left commentators speechless. Matt Forte, who was referred to by FanSided experts as “Joe Forte” and listed him as a fantasy player to sit in week 1 stepped up huge in his first game. He finished with 23 attempts for 123 yards, including a 50 yard run for a touchdown early in the game that set the tone. He added three catches for 18 yards for 144 total offensive yards.
Kyle Orton was a modest 13 of 21 for 150 yards but he led the offense on effective offensive drives instead of the three-and-out offense of last year. The Bears were able to convert 10 of 16 third downs and gave the defense a chance to catch their breath and maintain intensity. Time of possession was always a struggle and made a tired defense vulnerable towards the end of the game. Today the Bears actually won the time of possession and held on to the ball for 31:44 over the Colts 28:16.
All week the experts wanted to talk about how the Bears couldn’t stop Dwight Freeney but no one discussed how the Colts would stop Tommie Harris. All week the experts talked about how Orton would struggle but no one cared about Payton Manning’s knee. All week the experts talked about how Matt Forte would be good but struggle against the Colts defense but no one talked about the Bears shutting down the Colts running game. All those things came to light at game time and the Bears took advantage.
I talked yesterday how the Bears supposed weakness could also be their strength. The Bears don’t have a top wide receiver but they have a solid wide receiver rotation that can work in the slot. The result is no Bear caught more than two passes and Orton threw for a completion to seven different receivers. The Colts could never quite figure out who Orton was going to throw to when the Bears needed a completion. Early he went to his receivers like Brandon Lloyd and late he found his tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark open for big gains. It wasn’t flashy but it was effective and the Colts defense couldn’t keep up.
Tomorrow the story of this game will be Matt Forte picking it up as the rookie starting running back. Without a running game the Bears wouldn’t have been able to manufacture their scoring drives and the Colts probably win this game. The Bears finally have the running back and the running game they had two years ago when they went to the Super Bowl. Suddenly, this team looks a lot stronger than people would give them credit for in the preseason.
Time to Bear Down!