Dwight Freeney returns.
It seems whenever the Colts play the Bears, there is always something historic about the occasion.
Week One: Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium (The Lube)
Kick-off time: 9:00 PM Eastern
This game marks the grand (regular season) opening for Lucas Oil Stadium, the coolest, most badass stadium in football. The stadium really is a thing of beauty, and a proud sports landmark for the great sports state of Indiana. For Chicago fans, "Indiana" is almost a four letter word. The Indianapolis Colts destroyed the Bears in the Super Bowl and onetime Bears interception thrower Rex Grossman was spawned in Bloomington, Indiana. Heck, Rex himself almost constitutes a four letter word in Chicago.
For this game, once again injuries stand at the forefront of the story. Once All-Pro DT Tommie Harris is hurt again, and once all-world safety Mike Brown also has injury concerns. Though Chicago sports greatness at linebacker, and their defensive ends are a solid bunch, their defense is drastically different when Harris and Brown are hobbled or absent. For the Colts, they will be minus their two best interior linemen in OC Jeff Saturday and OG Ryan Lilja. both are out until roughly Week 6. Peyton Manning will play in his first game since the playoffs last year. He sat out all training camp and preseason recovering from minor knee surgery.
It's annoying that injuries continue to frame and shape this small rivalry, but it is what it is.
Between the two, the Bears have had the most off-season turnover, with their offense sporting the most dramatic results. Gone are last year's starting WRs Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammed. Former starting RB Cedric Benson is out of football, mercifully. Rex Grossman was benched in favor of Purdue alumn Kyle Orton, who is a big Peyton Manning fan himself. Devin Hester is now a starting WR. Rookie Matt Forte, much respected by the Stampede Blue crowd, is the new running back. This offense has drastically different personnel than when these two teams last met, and it will be a challenge for the Colts.
It's almost like the Bears are a totally new team, and to beat this new team, here are BBS's world famous (and often dead friggin wrong) keys to the game:
- Kick to Devin Hester. Yes. Do it. Kick to him. Make him field it. Then, hit him. HARD! Darrell Reid hard. Kick it as best you can and your coverage units should do what the team pays them six figures to do. If they can't, they suck and the team should not be kicking in the first place. The Colts special teams have played very well in preseason, and Adam Vinatieri has boomed his kickoffs consistently 2 or 3 yards deep into the endzone. The key for punt coverage is Hunter Smith cannot out punt his coverage. Give them time to get down there and smack Hester. It's also important to be physical with Hester when he plays WR. Hit him early and often, and it will affect his ability to return punts and kicks later on.
- Run the ball. The Colts nearly ran for over 200 yards against the Bears in Super Bowl 41. Indy brought back Dominic Rhodes this past off-season, and it was Rhodes who ran all over Chicago's defense that day in Miami's Purple Rain. The Bears might try and bring pressure up the middle with their linebackers. Though they play Tampa 2, Bears coach Lovie Smith likes to blitz more than his mentor, Tony Dungy. To counter this, delayed draws and stretch runs can offer big openings, allowing Rhodes and Joseph Addai to gain big yardage. This will soften Chicago's pass rush and open them up to play action passes in the second half.
- Attack Kyle Orton. The Bears will game plan to Orton's strengths. He is more of a leader than Grossman, having just been named team captain. Orton is also better under pressure than Grossman. He doesn't have Grossman's arm, but he can make accurate throws. Pressuring him early can throw off any rhythm, forcing him to make throws he is not comfortable doing. That means turnovers. Forcing Orton into turnovers is very key. Chicago does not seem to have the kind of offense to come back from a big deficit. They will want to run Matt Forte and control the game with precise throws. Early pressure will neutralize that.
You'll be surprised to note that I disagree with WCG. There are no "gimme" games in this league. This is not college football. Anyone can beat anyone at anytime in this league. That's why it is so great. Chicago does not need to play perfect to beat Indy. Things like turnovers, penalties, and bad officiating can turn the game for any team. Chicago has a solid defense and great special teams. If their offense can play mistake-free football, they will be a tough team to beat.
This game also marks the return of Dwight Freeney and Marvin Harrison from injuries last season. Look for them to make an immediate positive impact.