A Capsule Look at this Week's Colts Opponent, the Chicago Bears
Synopsis: In the first game of the 2008 regular season, the Colts will play a high-profile game against a team with which they share a high-profile history.
And a relatively recent history, too.
The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, will open the 2008 regular season with the first regular-season game in Lucas Oil Stadium – the state-of-the-art, retractable-roof facility in downtown Indianapolis – and they will do so against the Chicago Bears, the team they beat 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season.
The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sunday at 8 p.m.
The Bears slipped after their Super Bowl season to 7-9, losing three of their first four games and never reaching .500 after the second week of the season. They finished third in the NFC North and a defense that was dominant at times in 2006 finished 28th in overall defense, allowing 20 points or more 10 times after five such games the previous season.
A primary storyline throughout was quarterback Rex Grossman. After quarterbacking the Bears in the Super Bowl season, Grossman began 2007 as the starter, but was replaced by Brian Griese after the third game of the season. He played in eight games, throwing four touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
Kyle Orton, a fourth-year veteran who started 15 games as a rookie in 2005, will start at quarterback against the Colts, with Grossman entering the season as a backup. Orton, who played at Purdue, completed 190 of 368 passes for 1,869 yards and nine touchdowns with 13 interceptions as a rookie, started three games last season, throwing three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Bears went 1-3 in the preseason, and Head Coach Lovie Smith told the team's website this week, "We haven't played well."
"That's the only way you can identify it," Smith said. "All the things that go into not playing well, we haven't done. That's where it is. I feel like we're going to have an outstanding defense, still, once we get everything in and we get the guys going."
Offensively, the Bears will start rookie second-round selection Matt Forte at running back, and an offseason issue has been a line that will feature two new starters – left tackle John St. Clair and left guard Terrence Metcalfe.
"It's possible for it to click right away," Bears center Olin Kreutz told www.chicagobears.com. "We don't have time for it to mesh. We have to make it mesh now. Indianapolis is going to be a loud place to play. Their defense is fast.
"We have to be on the same page, and communication is paramount. We have to be able to communicate and know what each other is doing out there."
Defensively, linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are among the NFL's best, as are tackle Tommie Harris and end Adewale Ogunleye.
2007 Record: 7-9, T-3rd in NFC North.
Head Coach: Lovie Smith, fifth season as Bears and NFL Head Coach (36-28 regular season, 38-30 including playoffs).
Last game: The Bears went 1-3 in the preseason.
2007 NFL Rankings: Offense – 27th overall (293.2 yards per game); Rushing, 30th (83.1 ypg); Passing, 15th (210.1 ypg); Defense – Overall, 28th (354.7 yards per game); Rushing, 24th (122.9 ypg); Passing, 11th (231.8 ypg).
2007 Leading Passer: Brian Griese (161-262, 1,803 yards, 61.5 pct., 10 TD, 12 INT, 75.6 rating), Rex Grossman (122-225, 1,411 yards, 54.2 pct., 4 TD, 7 INT, 66.4 rating), Kyle Orton (43-80, 1,411 yards, 53.8 pct., 3 TD, 2 INT, 73.9).
2007 Leading Rusher(s): Cedric Benson (196 carries, 674 yards, 4 TD); Adrian Peterson (151 carries, 510 yards, 3 TD).
2007 Leading Receiver(s): Bernard Berrian (71 receptions, 951 yards, 5 TD).
2007 Leading Sacker(s): Adewale Ogunleye (9), Tommie Harris (8).
2007 Turnover Breakdown: Plus-1 (33 forced, 32 committed).
First-round draft choice: Chris Williams, offensive tackle. With the 14th overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Bears selected Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt University.
Williams (6-feet-6, 312 pounds), one of 10 rookies on the Bears' regular-season roster as of Monday, currently is backing up left tackle John St. Clair. He started his last three seasons at Vanderbilt, and was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection as a senior.
Key free agents acquired: Marty Booker (Miami), WR; Brandon Lloyd (Washington), WR.
Key free agents lost: Brendon Ayenbadejo (Baltimore), LB; Bernard Berrian (Minnesota), WR; John Gilmore (Tampa Bay), TE.
2007 Review: The Bears, months after qualifying for the Super Bowl, started slowly in 2007 and never recovered, finishing out of the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The Bears lost three of the first four games, including two losses to teams that went on to make their respective conference title games – Dallas and San Diego – and a 10-point loss at Detroit that pushed Chicago two games under .500 after four weeks.
Chicago split its next four games, and stayed in playoff contention with a dramatic, come-from-behind Thanksgiving Day weekend victory over Denver, but consecutive losses to the New York Giants, Washington and Minnesota eliminated the Bears from the playoffs.
Last time in Playoffs: 2006.
Last time in Super Bowl: 2006.
Super Bowl Championships: 1985.
2007 Pro Bowl Selections: Lance Briggs, linebacker; Tommie Harris, defensive tackle; Devin Hester, return; Brendon Ayanbadejo, special teams.
Quotable I: "The mindset changes for everyone, not just us. We know we'll have our full game plan in. We haven't really game-planned for anyone yet. But other teams haven't really game-planned yet either. In this first football game, you'll see exactly where all the teams are. So we're anxious to play with everything in on both sides and see exactly what type of football team we have."
--- Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith
Quotable II: "Now we're going to work. This stuff is all to get to where we're at right now. Now it's extra effort; put as much time as you need to play your best game, and that's what we need to do. We have a tough game right out of the gate and we have to play our best game."
--- Bears Quarterback Kyle Orton