CHICAGO – The Indianapolis Colts' rebuilding project will take some more time and possibly some more supplies.
The Chicago Bears, a team that looks built for Super Bowl contention, beat the Colts 41-21 in the season opener for both teams on Sunday at Soldier Field.
In the battle of quarterbacks, Chicago veteran Jay Cutler thrived and Colts rookie Andrew Luck experienced a welcome-to-the-NFL baptism by fire and Bears.
Cutler completed 21 of 35 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Luck was 23-of-45 for 309 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. (Incidentally, former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 302 yards, one score and three interceptions in his Colts' rookie debut.)
Luck's favorite target, sure-handed Reggie Wayne, caught nine passes for 135 yards.
"When you're responsible for four turnovers, it's hard to win, it's hard to be productive as an offense," Luck said. "Three picks and fumble for me, those are killers. A lot of credit goes to them for making those plays. Not too many fond memories, I think, of an opening loss."
The Colts defense came out aggressive early and it paid off when linebacker Jerrell Freeman picked off a Cutler pass for a 3-yard touchdown return. Cutler missed on eight of his first nine passes. As the half wore on, however, Cutler found his rhythm (and his old/new favorite receiver Brandon Marshall), finishing the half with 15 of 27 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown to Marshall. Marshall finished the game with nine catches for 119 yards.
While the Colts offense struggled at times early, Luck engineered two strong drives in the second quarter. The first, helped by two great catches by Reggie Wayne and two long runs by Donald Brown, cut the Bears' lead to 17-14.
The Bears pushed the lead back to 10 points (24-14) with a Michael Bush one-yard touchdown, set up by a pass from Cutler to Earl Bennett.
Luck then directed the Colts into field goal range in the final 39 seconds, utilizing three passes to tight end Coby Fleener, and one to Wayne. Unfortunately for the Colts, Adam Vinatieri pushed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Luck was 10 for 17 for 137 yards and one interception in the first half (on an underthrown deep ball to Donnie Avery).
After the Colts went three-and-out to open the third quarter, Cutler directed another scoring drive, with Matt Forte scoring from the six-yard line to make it 31-14. Later, trailing 34-14, Luck directed a strong drive but was intercepted off a tipped pass in the end zone intended for Wayne.
The Colts closed it to 34-21 on an 80-yard drive, with Luck hitting Donnie Avery from 4 yards out for his first regular-season touchdown pass with 10:20 left in the game.
Cutler answered with a 79-yard drive, capped by a beautiful 42-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, to make it 41-21 with six minutes left.
"They're a good ball club," Wayne said. "We knew that going into the game, but we can't turn the ball over. We can't put it on a silver platter for them. We need to get better in that aspect and keep pushing."