Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (left) intercepts a ball intended for… (Chicago Tribune )
Welcome to the new age, Bears fans. The previous regime was all right; it’s not as if Lovie Smith’s 10-6 record in 2012 was a disaster. But when it’s Super Bowl or bust, you need a nuclear-powered offense or defense—or both—to carry you to NFL glory.
Enter new coach Marc Trestman, a reputed offensive mastermind, along with high expectations. And no Brian Urlacher to anchor the defense.
One game into Trestman’s run in Chicago and the team looks pretty good. Good enough to beat Cincinnati 24-21, anyway, after they forced three turnovers and quarterback Jay Cutler turned threw for 172 of his 242 yards in the second half.
“When you get a ‘W,’ that’s a good day for a head coach,” Lance Briggs said afterward, playing it cool and not trying to get ahead of himself.
Is this team radioactive in a good way? We might not know until deep in the season. Until then, we have at least some idea what we’ll love—and hate—about the 2013 Bears.
Love: Jim Cornelison. Can’t get enough of him singing the national anthem. Speaking of Blackhawks connections, maybe Marc Trestman can borrow Coach Q’s stache when he’s not using it. At the very least, there was no panic in the head coach in his Soldier Field debut.
“Coach Trestman, he’s a special guy, he really is,” Brandon Marshall said. “He stays steady; there’s no ups and downs.”
Love: Good Charles Tillman. He picked off two passes in the first half, giving him 35 for his career. Even in his 11th year, he still looks like a Pro Bowler much of the time.
Hate: Bad Charles Tillman. He had some bumps covering stud Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green (162 receiving yards, two touchdowns), even committing a pass interference penalty early in the third quarter. Well, nobody’s perfect.
“[Tillman] battled an elite receiver, and some of those big plays, you can’t get in better position than what he’s in,” linebacker Lance Briggs said, getting his teammate’s back. “To get the ball out and create turnovers, and get interceptions, that’s what we’re all about, and Peanut is the pinnacle of it.”
Hate: The Bears looking lost. They called one timeout before their third play from scrimmage, and their second well before the first quarter had ended. Cutler said afterward he didn’t like what he saw, and didn’t seem frustrated at all.
“We’ve got ‘em, might as well burn ‘em,” Cutler said.
Well, OK then.
Love: Robbie Gould. He nailed a 58-yard field goal—a Bears record—to pull the Bears within 14-10 toward the end of the first half, and the boot had distance to spare. Never change, Robbie. Never change.
“There was no question we were going to have him kick right at the end of the half,” Trestman said. “No doubt about it.”
Love: The new No. 50. Linebacker James Anderson made Mike Singletary proud, recording three tackles in his Bears debut and twice breaking up passes that forced the Bengals to punt. Call him Samurai Anderson?
Love: The Black Unicorn. Martellus Bennett caught three passes for 49 yards, including an incredible touchdown reception in the back of the end zone. Thanks, N.Y. Giants!
“I had to channel my inner Brandon Marshall,” Bennett said. “My first catch ended up being a drop as a Bear. I bet everyone was like, ‘Here we go again.’ … That’s what I’m here for, to try and score as many [touchdowns] as I get.”
Hate: Cutler’s mistakes. Just when the Bears seized momentum, he threw a pick early in the fourth quarter. Of course, Cutler got the last laugh, and the victory.
Love: Matt Forte. He’s the Swiss army knife of the Bears offense. He’s a hell of an option, say, inside the 5-yard line. Or in the passing game. Or on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. You get the idea.
Love: Brandon Marshall’s fashion choices. Never one to look like everyone else, his polka dot shoes with red soles complete the blue-shirt-red-tie ensemble he had going. D-Wade and LeBron should take notes.
Love: Cutler to Marshall. Did we mention they could be pace for 1,983 yards this season? Eight catches for 104 yards and a TD for Marshall is an outstanding start. The trick is to do that 15 more times, plus the playoffs.
“My goal is to be the best wide receiver on the field, and I want to make Peanut [Tillman] the best cornerback on the field, too, so I take it personal,” Marshall said.
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