Sunday School: What We Learned

Not many people expected the Chicago Bears to be in contention in 2008, including this humbled sports writer, but suddenly things are looking up for head coach Lovie Smith and Co. Here are five things we learned about the Midway Monsters after a strong 29-13 win over the Colts on Sunday.

1. Forte is everything Benson wasn't in a running back
Matt Forte was nothing short of sensational in his professional debut on Sunday Night Football, running wild for 123 yards on 23 carries. The second-round draft pick from Tulane took the air out of brand new Lucas Oil Stadium with a 50-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter, and he moved the chains repeatedly by banging inside the tackles and also turning the corner. He even caught three passes out of the backfield, did his part in pass protection, cooked a delicious gumbo for the pre-game meal, answered phones during a United Way pledge drive between series, and rescued a Persian out of an oak tree on his way back to the team hotel.

Forte proved right away that he's capable of handling the load and being in there on every down, while Cedric Benson couldn't avoid the injury bug and had no business taking part in passing situations.


QB Kyle Orton
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

2. Orton understands his role under center
Nobody pulled out a win in their fantasy league by deciding to start Kyle Orton at quarterback over, say, Tony Romo, but the bearded wonder did exactly what the Bears needed him to do against the Colts. He took what the defense gave him, only threw the ball downfield when the percentages were in his favor, and refused to give Indy a chance to get back in the ballgame with a silly turnover. Orton did see some pressure up front, but he was only sacked twice because he went through his progressions quickly and didn't try to create a play when one wasn't there.

Rex Grossman just couldn't help himself with his gunslinger-for-life personality, always enamored with 300-yard passing games and tilting the scoreboard, while Orton, even though he has always hated that "game manager" label, seems to only be concerned with the bottom line.

3. Run blocking is ahead of pass blocking at this point
It's impossible to ignore just how solid the offensive line was in the running game against the Colts, paving the way for Forte's huge day plus an additional 45 yards on 13 carries from Kevin Jones. Indianapolis has always been light up front with their version of the Cover-2 defense, and offensive coordinator Ron Turner took advantage with straight-ahead blocking mixed in with a good amount of pulls and traps. Captain Olin Kreutz didn't have his best game and got whistled for a pair of penalties, but unheralded guards Roberto Garza and Josh Beekman both played pretty well.

It's hard to blame new left tackle John St. Clair for struggling with Dwight Freeney off the edge since he gives everybody fits, but he and John Tait need to give Orton an extra half-second or so if the passing game is going to improve.


S Mike Brown
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4. Brown can take away the deep ball by himself
On the surface, it looks as if the secondary had all kinds of problems covering the duo of Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison since they combined for 18 catches, but the fact that they only totaled 162 yards receiving – 8.6 yards per grab for Wayne and 9.5 for Harrison – is what really matters. The Bears were able to shut down Joseph Addai and the running game pretty much all night, forcing Peyton Manning to move the ball through the air. But both Wayne and Harrison were punished repeatedly and couldn't pick up extra yardage after the catch, mostly because of Mike Brown patrolling the deep middle of the field and taking away any chance Manning may have had at producing a 30- or 40-yard gain.

Not only did a gimpy Manning average just 5.2 yards per attempt, but of the seven Colts who caught at least one pass Sunday, nobody managed more than Anthony Gonzalez's 9.6 yards per reception.

5. Harris is going to need a lot of help up front all year
If you look at the stat sheet, Tommie Harris was credited with just one solo tackle on an evening when the defensive line was universally praised for a dominating effort. Harris was clearly outshined by Dusty Dvoracek, Israel Idonije, and rookie Marcus Harrison in the trenches, but that doesn't mean the three-time Pro Bowler wasn't effective. While Harris' knee problems have quite obviously not gone away completely and he'll likely be playing most of this season at less than 100 percent yet again, the four-man rotation at defensive tackle was downright nasty and kept everybody fresh from start to finish.

Sometimes Harris can look invisible because he's constantly being swallowed up by double- and triple-teams, although the D-line can still be one of the best around if the trifecta of Dvoracek, Idonije, and Harrison can take advantage of all those one-on-one matchups.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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