But after a shaky start, the Bears seem to be hitting a comfort zone in seizing a 24-14 halftime lead over the visiting Colts, with Cutler starting to cook up some completions and Matt Forte basically picking up where he left off in 2011 before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Here’s a quick rehash of the first half and a look at some halftime adjustments the Bears might make:
Slow start: Forcing several throws to receiver Brandon Marshall, Cutler started the game completing 1 of 10 for 13 yards, and an interception on a pass intended for Forte that was picked off by Jerrell Freeman and returned for a touchdown with 11:23 left in the first quarter.
Freeman’s return gave the Colts a 7-0 lead after the extra point, while Cutler’s passer rating sank to 0 after 13 passes.
Although Cutler forced throws and misfired on a few occasions, the quarterback’s protection struggled early on and that caused the quarterback to rush passes. The entire offense settled down eventually, but at the end of the first quarter, Cutler’s passer rating stood at 4.9 as he had completed 3 of 10 for 21 yards.
The offensive line settled in by experiencing some success with the rushing game. Forte gained 47 of the 61 yards -- including a 32-yard burst off left tackle -- the Bears racked up during a 61-yard drive spanning 11 plays that Michael Bush capped off with a 1-yard run with 7:19 left in the first quarter to tie the game after Robbie Gould’s extra point. During the drive, Forte moved past Gayle Sayers for fourth in career yards from scrimmage. Forte entered the game with 6,218 yards from scrimmage in 60 games, needing just 46 to pass Sayers, who had gained 6,263 yards in 68 outings.
The Bears moved ahead 14-7 by marching 95 yards in 11 plays in the second quarter with Marshall capping the drive with a 3-yard touchdown with a defender draped all over him.
After the dismal beginning, Cutler finished the first half 15 of 17 for 228 yards, one TD and a passer rating of 80.5.
THREE ADJUSTMENTS TO MAKE
Stop forcing passes to Marshall: It’s clear the Colts plan on devoting plenty of coverage to Marshall, who in 2009 caught an NFL-record 21 passes against them. So Cutler needs to stop forcing passes to Marshall before the Colts end up picking one off. Marshall already has six receptions for 85 yards and a TD.
So don’t stop throwing to him completely.
But Cutler needs to spread it around to take full advantage of his bevy of weapons. By the two-minute warning, Cutler had already connected with six different receivers, and all of them were averaging at least 12 yards per reception.
Don’t stop running: Michael Bush scored two TDS in the first half as he and Forte combined for 72 yards rushing. The Bears need to continue to feed the ball to the backs to widen the gap in terms of time of possession.
The Bears held the ball for 19 minutes and 32 seconds in the first half because of their ability to run the ball. With Forte (7.4 yards per carry in the first half) and Bush leading the way the Bears averaged 4.8 yards per carry and were able to convert third downs much easier because of what the backs did on first and second down.
In addition, the Bears scored on 75 percent of their trips to the red zone, in part, because of the damage done to the Colts by Bush and Forte.
Continue to pop Luck: The Bears couldn’t sack Luck in the first half, but their front four put plenty of pressure on the quarterback. Defensive ends Julius Peppers and rookie Shea McClellin landed vicious shots on Luck in the first half, which played a role in the quarterback rushing a few errant throws.
Because of the pressure the Bears were able to apply on Luck, the Colts converted just 1 of 4 on third down as the quarterback finished the first two quarters with a passer rating of 60.2 with an INT.