After two offensive drives, Bears fans everywhere were biting their nails. A sack and a false start that was then followed by a pick-six can do that to you. It was after that last mistake that the Bears offense finally settled down and executed their game plan flawlessly.
For the Colts, that interception was one of the few bright spots in Andrew Luck’s professional debut. Unfortunately for him, it was Chicago who was celebrating when it was over. The Bears’ secondary picked off Luck three times and the Colts ended multiple drives due to him missing open receivers. On offense, the Bears employed a balanced attack that severely limited the Colts’ pass-rushing opportunities.
When it was all said and done, Chicago racked up over 400 yards and 41 points en route to a victory that was over well before the final whistle.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
He’s Still Got It
Even though Luck’s day was one to forget, he could have had an opener closer to Brandon Weeden’s if it wasn’t for Reggie Wayne. Multiple one-handed and diving catches showed the world that the Colts’ top receiver still has it. After being spoiled for the first 10 years of his career, Wayne had to suffer through extremely poor quarterback play in 2011. In this game, though, he worked the middle of the field for 97 of of his 135 yards and was open on multiple balls that Luck just plain missed. It was a great game and Wayne showed that he isn’t going to relinquish his ‘elite receiver’ tag just yet.
Trade Winds Blowing
When the Colts got Vontae Davis from the Dolphins during the preseason it looked like a potential steal. Indianapolis gave up only a second rounder and a conditional pick for a commodity that is rare in the NFL today, a proven cornerback. Davis hasn’t graded negatively for a season in his career, but the Dolphins may have known something the Colts didn’t. Davis struggled mightily all day long (-4.8) for what ended up as the worst game we’ve seen him put up. Davis allowed a perfect passer rating to go with 104 yards and two touchdowns. Teams usually don’t throw away corners so callously and one has to wonder whether Davis has lost a step or if he just had a bad day.
A Work In Progress
The Colts’ transition to the 3-4 defense couldn’t have been any rockier. They looked completely lost trying to stop the Bears’ run game all day. The key to the defense has been, and is still supposed to be, the pass-rushing linebackers. Obviously Dwight Freeney was injured early on, but Robert Mathis (-0.6) and Freeney’s supposedly capable replacement Jerry Hughes (-1.8) didn’t have as big an impact as they probably should have had. I think, more than anything, the outside linebackers weren’t put in a great position to have an impact. That is because of 73 opportunities for the three linebackers to rush the passer, they dropped into coverage 21 times (29%). That is a far cry from the four total times the trio dropped in to coverage in 2011. The Colts have to find a way to get their best playmakers in the best position to make plays, and that was not the case on Sunday.
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
That couldn’t have been J’Marcus Webb, could it? The left tackle for the Bears looked like a changed man against the Colts. The much-maligned left tackle must have been practicing a little this offseason as he came out with easily the best game of his career and finished with a grade of +5.4. Webb had an up-and-down second season in 2011 that had much larger downs than ups. He finished as our second-worst starting left tackle in the NFL. On Sunday though, his 333 pound frame dominated in the run game, but even better than that was his positive pass blocking grade of +1.3. The biggest reason that this may not just be a fluke is that it occurred in the new system Mike Tice has implemented. Webb seemed to be put on an island in pass blocking far less against the Colts than in 2011, and excelled at creating seals in the run game. I don’t think I’m ready to say ‘problem solved’ for Chicago, but it’s as good a start as Bears fans could have hoped for.
Cutler’s New Weapons
All the hype surrounding the additions of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery is only going to grow after the pair of performances they turned in against the Colts. At least for now, they appear to be just what the doctor ordered for quarterback Jay Cutler. The new-found height was huge in the red zone as Marshall caught a three-yard touchdown and earned two pass interference penalties in the end zone. Neither receiver disappointed as Marshall graded out at +1.8 and Jeffery at +1.7. The two receivers combined were targeted 20 times out of Cutler’s 35 throws and any doubts about their effectiveness have been put to rest. The Bears’ passing game will have a chance to improve on this performance Thursday night against a Green Bay defense that gave up the most passing yards in the league in 2011.
Tim Jennings may have been a PFF Secret Superstar this offseason, but if he has a few more games like this one, the secret will be common knowledge. The great corners are said to take away half of the field and that was exactly what Jennings did. Luck would have been better off not even throwing a pass to Jennings’ area of responsibility as he picked off two passes and allowed only three completions on nine targets. He has been under the radar for some time now because of his low interception totals (seven in the past four years). Hopefully this is the kind of game that can gain him the recognition he deserves.
– Colts right tackle Winston Justice went down to injury after only 29 snaps and backup Jeff Linkenbach stepped in only to give up four pressures and a sack in his 31 pass blocking attempts.
– After coming out with two pressures and a sack early in the first quarter, DE Cory Redding was then dominated by Bears offensive tackles as he posted a -6.0 run grade.
– Luck was pressured on 15 of his 50 dropbacks and he went 2-for-10 for 35 yards while under heat.
PFF Game Ball
Though he hasn’t been there since 2009, it has to feel good for Tim Jennings to play well against his old team. He showed great ball skills on his two interceptions and one of his pass deflections went right into teammate Chris Conte’s hands. Jennings was a game-changer on Sunday.