Bears offense vs. Colts defense
We’ve heard it before, from the media to even Lovie Smith, that the Bears’ offense has a lot of “question marks”, and in order to have any chance at beating the Colts tonight, the offense has to answer those questions. It’s not going to be easy with a questionable offensive line going up against a defense that attacks the quarterback. The only benefit of facing this defense is that it’s one that Kyle Orton has seen every practice this preseason, or one close to it. The line needs to play sound football and Ron Turner will have to be on the edge of his seat, ready to change up protection schemes if Orton gets roughed up early. Matt Forte needs to get his hands on the football 20 times tonight. If that happens, we’ll know that the Bears are taking control of the clock and keeping the dangerous Colts offense off the field. The best way to counter a high-powered offense and a raucous crowd is to sustain long drives.
Bears defense vs. Colts offense
I’d like to tell you that the Bears defense we’re going to see is the one we saw in 2005 and 2006, when defenders flew to the ball and ripped it out of the ball-carrier’s hands. But since the last time these two teams played — in Super Bowl XLI — we’ve seen much more of a defense that overruns the ball carrier and attempts too many arm tackles than anything else. Colts offensive players may all be a year older, but they’re still as dangerous now as they were then. Even when the Bears were at their best during the Lovie Smith administration, I’d be hard-pressed to give the advantage to the Bears defense. But at a time of great uncertainty when the players on that side of the ball haven’t instilled much confidence in us Bears fans, I especially can’t give them the advantage here.
The past two years, Dave Toub’s unit has ranked first overall in the NFL and they helped the Bears win a lot of games. This year will be no different. Robbie Gould and Brad Maynard may be one of the best kicker/punter tandems in the league and Patrick Mannelly has long been considered the top long snapper. Devin Hester is, of course, the greatest kick returner in history, and even though his returns may be cut back due to his emergence on offense, his presence on the field still causes the opposing special teams to kick away from him and provide the Bears with good field position. I also like what I’ve seen out of Danieal Manning. By no means do I want Manning to take over the kick returning duties full time — and he won’t — but Manning is nearly as fast as Hester and has often raced him at practice. Manning hits the wedge hard and has a great burst up the field. I like him as a secondary option. The coverage teams need to get better and it’s been difficult without Brendon Ayanbadejo, but I think they’ll do just fine. Kick coverage, particularly on kickoffs, is more about mentality than physical tools.
We all know what happened in Super Bowl XLI. The Bears had the Colts right where they wanted, but a few breakdowns (fumbles, blown defensive assignments, interceptions) let the Colts walk away with the title. The Bears have been talking about payback, particularly this past week, and there are opportunities to pull off the upset. The defensive philosophies are very similar, the head coaches offer much of the same mannerisms and preferences, but the similarities end there. This offense is much better than the one the Bears put on the field and playing at home to open a new stadium in prime time makes this all the more difficult.
Final Score: Indianapolis 24, Chicago 14