What a strange turn of events this weekend. Most football fans from the Chicago area eagerly await the start of the NFL regular season. The preseason is nice, but until opening day, football is just a distant thought in my mind. Especially in a year when the Cubs have been playing the way that they have, I find it hard to tear myself away from the hoopla surrounding the north siders. Football seemed to be years away. To be honest, after the disappointing season that was last year I was not as excited as I have been in years past. That is, until last Sunday.......
How do you sum up the events of Sunday night? Simply put it was like waking up from a terrible nightmare only to realize that it was all a dream. It was like finally arriving home after a long trip that was not nearly the good time that you expected. Sunday night the Bears played as solid a game as I have witnessed by them since a cold January night against New Orleans. To say that it was a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. To get overly excited would be a mistake. But if you are a Bears fan, there is no doubt that waking up Monday morning was like waking up to a world full of new possibilities.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me say this. There are few players in the league that affect their units’ play as much as Mike Brown. In each of the last few seasons, he has been lost due to injury. Afterword they have not been quite as ferocious. Many people like to talk about Brian Urlacher being the leader of this defense. However the people that pay attention know that Mike Brown is the captain of this defense. When he is in the game, they are a different team on the field. Simply put, pound for pound, he is the hardest hitting player on this team. Having a healthy Mike Brown on the field is possibly the biggest advantage this team could have. He is a play maker, and a leader on the field.
Dusty Dvoracek was impressive in his first full game in the NFL. Along with Tommie Harris, Israel Idonije, and rookie Marcus Harrison, they made up one of the best looking interior lines that I witnessed this past weekend. With a safety and a sack, Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye rounded out the D- line with excellent performances from the defensive end positions. This line controlled the line of scrimmage and played with meaning.
The Bears have to be pleased with their decision to retain the services of weak side linebacker Lance Briggs. Just as Charles “Peanut” Tillman stripped receiver Marvin Harrison after a completion from Manning, Briggs scooped it up and charged 21 yards for a touchdown. He even broke out the old “stiff arm” on Indianapolis lineman Charlie Johnson on his way to scoring the first Chicago defensive touchdown of the season.
On to the offense... Ah yes the offense. We really didn’t know what to expect from a unit that had replaced some of the key positions. The line blocked well and made holes in a defense that was one of the top ranked in the league last year. In his first game in the pros, Matt Forte looked like an experienced veteran out on the field. It is nice to see a hard working rookie that understands what it means to be the starting half back for the charter franchise in the NFL. It is truly a breath of fresh air, especially after the terrible Cedric Benson era. Not since #20 Thomas Jones was lining up behind the quarterback have we seen such solid play from our starting back. While it is way too early to anoint him the second coming of the great #34, it is not too early to be excited about the depth that Forte can bring to the table. Orton spread the ball around well, hitting 7 different receivers to complete 13 of 21 pass attempts.
Granted they were playing a decimated Colts team that has been the victim of injuries, but this is the NFL folks, and injuries are the one constant in every season. Every team has to play through them, and it is no different for Peyton Manning and the Colts. I don’t know if the Colts made the Bears look good, or the Bears just made the Colts look bad, but I would prefer to believe the latter.
Whatever the case, with some new faces in the mix, there was a nice surprise for Bears fans on Sunday night. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the season is barely under way. Many things are possible. But for Bears fans, a new day has begun, and it looks as if maybe, just maybe, The Monsters of the Midway are back.