I was wrong. Joe Schmoe down the street was wrong. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King was, too. ESPN’s panel of experts were wrong. As was the crew from Fox Sports. And Yahoo Sports’ experts. And Pete Prisco and the group from CBS Sportsline.com also were wrong. In fact, almost every “expert” from all the major sports news web sites picked the Colts to beat the Bears, plus, I saw as much as 95% of online users voted for Indianapolis as well. Needless to say, the Bears shocked the NFL world tonight.
So, why did the Bears beat the heavily favored Colts? Because they followed a simple formula almost to perfection. No performance is ever perfect, but the Bears came awfully close Sunday night. The formula is simple: run the football with Matt Forte at least 20 times (he had 23), move the chains and eat up the clock to keep Peyton Manning on the sideline (the Bears won the time of possession battle by 3 minutes), and put pressure on Manning in the same fashion as the Giants did in Super Bowl XLII against Tom Brady and the Patriots (which the defense did for the most part).
A few days ago, I expressed my concern for the Bears defense and said I had little worry about the offense. Well, the offense vindicated my belief that they would be just fine. They moved the ball by running it effectively and taking care of it in the passing game. Kyle Orton had no interceptions, although at least two of his throws were dropped by Colts defenders. But he made a couple big time throws that kept drives alive. Forte ran the ball like a ball carrier we haven’t seen in a long time. And what I liked most about him was that after he got his clock cleaned by Bob Sanders, he took a few plays off and came right back on the field ready to play.
As for the defense, they eased my — and thousands of other Bears fans — concerns by playing the way we all know they’re capable of playing. Their performance tonight brought back visions of the 2005 and 2006 season when they were a top 5 defense in the league. One would wonder whether or not they were actually giving much effort in the preseason because this unit looked entirely different than they did last month.
As a voice of reason, though, I must caution Bears fans from getting too optimistic about this victory. After a win like this, expectations deserve to be raised. But I can already hear callers when I listen to The Score tomorrow:
“We’re going to the Super Bowl! … This team is so much better under Kyle Orton than Rex Grossman. … Grossman would have buckled under the Colts’ pressure. … This defense is going to be better than 2006! … Bears are going 12-4!”
Let’s all enjoy this victory and sleep on it, and then we’ll focus on the Panthers tomorrow. There’s still work to be done and this team still needs to fight hard every week to earn a spot in the playoffs. But what a first step to take!