The Bears rolled into Indianapolis last night and beat the Colts 29-13 – this despite a pretty decent game from Peyton Manning, who missed the entire preseason recovering from an injury. The Bears held Colts running back Joseph Addai to just 44 yards on 12 carries, a significant achievement for a team whose run defense has looked about as stout as a New Orleans levee the last couple of years. And about that allegedly shaky Bears running game? Rookie Matt Forte rang up 123 yards on 23 carries, including a 50 yard touchdown. I guess they don’t miss Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones after all. And I guess with their defense back on track and their running game working, they don’t need much more from Kyle Orton than what they got last night – 13/21 for 150 yards and, most importantly, 0 interceptions.
This is how the Bears figure to win games this year: Stifling D, good ball-control offense, Devin Hester making things happen in the return game and hopefully more as a receiver (he caught only 1 ball for 7 yards last night and failed to house one on special teams, but they still managed to win convincingly). And, interestingly, this would appear to be the more-or-less the same formula the Vikings and Packers would favor (without the Hester factor obviously). Those three teams, who figure to be battling it out for the NFC North title this year, seem to have taken things back to the old NFC Norris days – they all feature good defense and good rushing and are not looking for anything flashy from their passing games (though the Vikes would like to see some fireworks from the Tarvaris Jackson-Bernard Berrian combo at some point). The Lions with their pass-all-the-time mentality and utter lack of defensive presence would seem the odd team out, and I believe they will struggle all year like they did against Atlanta. For now, the Bears lead the division, and have earned a tip of the cap.