Four Downs: Keys to beating the Colts (09/09/12)

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Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will get his first real NFL challenge against a veteran Bears defense.
Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will get his first real NFL challenge against a veteran Bears defense.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Indianapolis Colts.

1. Give Andrew Luck different looks he’s never seen before

Many have called Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck the most-NFL ready quarterback to come out of college since Peyton Manning in 1998. That’s high praise for a guy who is replacing Manning in Indianapolis and steps into a giant shadow cast by the future Hall of Famer. Even Manning struggled in his first season in the league. As prepared as Luck might be, we have yet to find out if he can handle a complex defensive game plan because he did not encounter that in the preseason. Similar to how the Bears confused and harassed fellow rookie Robert Griffin III in the preseason, and how they battered Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the 2011 season opener, the defense needs to come after Luck all afternoon. An uncomfortable Luck can’t beat a seasoned defense like the Bears have, but a comfortable, confident one certainly can.

2. Hit them up top early

My goodness, the Bears have the weapons to be a legitimate passing team in the NFL. We get to experience that for real now that the practice season is over. There’s no reason to keep the Ferrari in first gear right out of the gates. If I were offensive coordinator Mike Tice, I’d go up top early in the game, much like the Bears did against the Redskins in the preseason. Granted, Jay Cutler’s 41-yard strike to Brandon Marshall on the first offensive play of that game was an audible, not a play called by Tice. But perhaps Tice should have made a mental note and included that in this week’s game plan. When you come out of your corner at the sound of the bell against a weaker opponent, you throw a few immediate haymakers and see if you can rattle them and set the tone early. The Colts, in rebuilding mode, will stagger if they get smacked in the mouth early in the game and the Bears can ride that momentum through four quarters.

3. Come at them with a steady dose of the run game

Make no mistake about it, even if the Bears choose to strike through the air early, that does not mean they can neglect the run game altogether. Let’s all remember Brian Urlacher’s knee issue, Julius Peppers’ foot problem, and the collective age of the defense. The offense can’t just score quick; they need to give the defense a chance to rest on the sideline because it’ll be a long season. The Colts had the fourth-worst run defense in 2011, and even though they may have taken steps to try to improve that this year, the duo of Matt Forte and Michael Bush should still be able to rip through the Colts defense like a rock through a wet paper towel.

4. Pin them deep with solid special teams play

With punter Adam Podlesh’s status still up in the air, rookie Ryan Quigley may be called to action. Whichever punter is in the game, he’ll have to come up big with field-changing bombs. The best way to apply pressure on a young quarterback is to pin him deep in his own end of the field in a noisy stadium on the road. When deep in their own red zone, the Colts will almost certainly go vanilla in their play calling and limit what Luck can do.

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