A QUICK LOOK
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at CHICAGO BEARS
*Intro: *Indianapolis and Chicago will kickoff the 2012 regular season in Solider Field for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff on Sunday. This is the second time since 2008 the non-traditional rivals open a regular season. Chicago was on hand in Indianapolis on September 7 of that season, and the Bears earned a 29-13 victory in the first game ever in Lucas Oil Stadium.
INDIANAPOLIS – A capsule look at the Colts' opponent this week, the Chicago Bears of the NFC North.
Synopsis: It finally is game week at the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center.
After months of preparation by staff, coaches and players, the Colts will open up the 2012 regular season by traveling to Chicago.
This marks the third straight season the Colts will open on the road. Indianapolis opened at divisional foe Houston in both 2010 and 2011. In 2008, the Bears and Colts battled in the season opener, with that game being the inaugural contest in Lucas Oil Stadium. Chicago took a 29-13 victory in that series meeting.
Numerous Colts players will make their debut in the blue and white on Sunday, highlighted by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck was the top pick in the 2012 draft after a standout career at Stanford.
Luck is coming off a strong preseason where he led all AFC quarterbacks with 522 passing yards.
For the preseason, he connected on 41-of-66 passes for 522 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. His rating was 89.3.
Along with many new faces that will be on the field on Sunday, the Colts also will unveil a new 3-4 hybrid defense. New starters helping to man that scheme will be defensive end Cory Redding and safety Tom Zbikowski. Redding and Zbikowski were fluent in the scheme in Baltimore under Chuck Pagano, the Colts' new head coach who directed the defense last year with the Ravens.
Safety Antoine Bethea is one of a few veterans on a Colts defense who is itching to show off the new system.
"First week is always first week. (I'm) excited," Bethea said, now in his seventh season. "Preseason is over. You got your final roster and (you're) just ready to get out there and play the games that really count."
In opening up with one of the premier teams from the NFC, the Colts rookies will get a taste of what life is like in the NFL.
Tight end Dwayne Allen routinely has talked about how grateful he is to have this opportunity to play at the highest of levels.
"This is the one that counts. The phrase of the day has been, 'Get your helmet on, strap it up, the live bullets are about start flying,' " Allen said.
"I'm excited to get this thing off and started to what's going to be a great season. To get this experience in the first game (against a great defense), I couldn't ask for a better team to go up against."
The Colts will be looking to add to their 34 opening weekend wins. The club has not won on opening day since 2009, when they bested Jacksonville, 14-12. The 34 wins on opening day are the second-most among all teams in the AFC, trailing only Pittsburgh (40). Chicago and Green Bay are tied for the NFL lead with 52.
Tuesday is an off day from the practice field for Colts players and Pagano gave them one message that he believes will not only be the key this Sunday but in all 16 weeks of the season.
"All we're doing is thinking about us and how to get better. What I just left them with is, 'I'm not worried about our opponent right now, all I'm worried about is us,' " Pagano said.
"You've still got to watch tape and get ready for Wednesday's practice. I've said it before – the enemy is really in our own camp. It's never your opponent. As long as we don't beat ourselves, we'll give ourselves a chance to compete and win."
*2011 Record: *8-8, Third in NFC North.
*Head Coach: *Lovie Smith, 9th season as Bears and NFL head coach (71-57 regular season, 74-60 overall).
*2011 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 24th (314.1); Rushing, 9th (125.9); Passing, 26th (188.2) Defense – Overall, 17th (350.4); Rushing, 5th (96.4); Passing, 28th (254.4).
*2011 Leading Passer: *Jay Cutler (182-314 comp., 2,319 yards, 58.0 pct., 13 TDs, 7 INTs, 85.7 rating).
*2011 Leading Rusher: *Matt Forte (203 carries, 997 yards, 3 TDs).
*2011 Leading Receiver: *Matt Forte (52 receptions, 490 yards, 1 TD).
2011 Leading Sacker: Julius Peppers (11.0).
2011 Turnover Breakdown: 2 (T11th).
First-round draft choice: The Bears selected Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin with the 19th pick in the first round of April's NFL Draft. McClellin was a part of a stingy Broncos defense and shot up the draft boards late in the process. In the second round, the Bears gave quarterback Jay Cutler a tall receiver to target in South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery. Unfortunately, third-round pick Brandon Hardin was placed on injured reserve last week with a neck injury. The safety from Oregon State will miss his second straight season after not playing in 2011 due to a shoulder injury.
*2011 Review: *The Bears had a difficult ending to the 2011 season, losing five straight games before winning the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. Heading into Week 12 of the season, the Bears were 7-3 and primed for a return trip to the playoffs. However, three one-possession losses would follow, and the five-game winning streak the Bears had prior to Week 12 was cancelled out.
Last time in Playoffs: 2010. Lost in the 2010 NFC Championship Game to the Green Bay Packers.
*Last time in Super Bowl: *2006. Lost to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
*Super Bowl Championships: *One (1985).
*2011 Pro Bowl Selections: *Matt Forte RB, Lance Briggs OLB, Brian Urlacher MLB, Charles Tillman CB, Corey Graham CB.