Saturday, September 13, 2008 - B-E-A-R D-O-W-N
Saturday, September 13, 2008
B elieve. Last year after training camp, the Bears claimed to be stronger, faster and better than the Super Bowl squad of 2006. Their 7-9 record proved otherwise. This year's preseason contests led many to believe that Chicago fans were in for another year of heartache. Opening day, the Bears ran all over the Colts, beating the AFC South favorites 29-13. That's why they play the game.
E fficiency. In the season opener, Kyle Orton was a respectable 13-of-21 for 151 yards and, most importantly, helped the Bears go 10-for-16 on 3rd downs. When Orton plays conservative, smart football, the Bears succeed. Seven different players caught passes from Captain Neckbeard, none for more than 50 yards. In Carolina, the offense should stick to the game plan that helped them crush the Colts–establish the run and throw to the open man-—whoever it may be.
A dewale. Bears' defensive end Adewale Ogunleye was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for week one, registering three tackles and three tackles-for-loss in Sunday's season opener. Ogunleye was also responsible for the Bears' lone safety, taking down Colts' running back Joseph Addai in the 2nd quarter.
R unning man. After a spectacular NFL debut, Matt Forte can no longer fly under the radar. Last week Forte became the first Chicago rookie running back to start in an opening game since Walter Payton in 1975. His 123 yards were the most ever by a Bears' back in his pro debut and the 12th highest rookie rushing debut in the history of the league. He showed tremendous breakout speed, quick feet, great hands and cutbacks so devastating he had the Tribune Company taking notes. Forte will have his hands (and feet) full in Week 2, facing a Panthers defense that held LaDainian Tomlinson to under 100 yards rushing last week.
D efense. The black 'n blues brothers are back. After a disappointing preseason that saw the Bears D make guys like JT O'Sullivan look like Pro Bowlers, the Monsters of the Midway opened up 2008 in classic style. They helped Indy christen the brand spankin' new Lucas Oil Stadium with sacks, strips, stunts and a safety. Carolina's offense looked poised and potent against the Chargers last week, despite being without the efforts of stud wide-out Steve Smith. The Bears D will need to continue to attack the line of scrimmage and take away the deep ball if they hope to contain Jake Delhomme and a surprising Panther receiving corps.
O h my, O-Line. Taking Chris Williams first in this year's draft, Chicago seemed determined to shore up its aging offensive line. After losing Williams to injury before one down of regular season football, all hope seemed lost. Not so fast, Chicago fans. The o-line was surprisingly strong against the Colts, protecting Orton and creating big holes for Forte and the run game. I'm worried about the return of Fred Miller, who was cut after a miserable season last year (and has gotten nothing but older since then) but perhaps the Bears' brass sees something I don't in the veteran tackle.
W here receivers go to die. Once and future Panther, Muhsin Muhammad, gave the Bears some bulletin board material last month when he told Sports Illustrated "Chicago is where receivers go to die." While Moose and his former teammates in Chicago have tried to downplay the significance of the comment in recent weeks, there's no denying that the pass-dropping, AARP card-holding wideout will have a big target on his back in Week 2. Even old friends like Tommie Harris, who remember the 13-year vet fondly, have plans for Sunday's reunion. "Moose is like a brother to me," Harris said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him. I might give him a big hug or something; maybe tackle him across the middle if it's a wide receiver screen or something."
N ew game, new challenges. Blasting Indy on Opening Day was sweet revenge for Super Bowl XLI, but one game does not a season make. After a week of watching tape, Carolina will be ready to take on Forte's feet and Babitch's blitzes. Orton and the Bears' receivers will need to play a much bigger role in week two and Chicago's D will have to stay creative and aggressive. I expect big games out of Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen and wouldn't be surprised to see Orton and Hester connect on a deep ball early in the game.