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CHICAGO – Bears coach Lovie Smith was not looking for a hug when he told Brian Urlacher to remain on the sidelines as the defense took the field early in the third quarter Sunday.
Good thing. Smith didn’t get one.
“Brian wanted to play the entire game,” Smith said with an understanding smile after the Bears’ 41-21 win against the Indianapolis Colts. “When we told him he was coming out, it’s not like he told us that it was a great idea.”
The move prevented an unnecessary setback for Urlacher, who has practiced only twice since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in mid-August. He finished the game with two tackles and a pass break-up before giving way to Nick Roach with the Bears enjoying a 20-point lead, 34-14, with about 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Urlacher, 34, said he did not expect to be pulled early but followed his coach’s orders.
Part of the reason for the Bears to rest Urlacher likely was a quick turnaround for Week 2. They will visit the Green Bay Packers on Thursday at Lambeau Field.
“He knows that there’s a big picture,” Smith said. “We wanted to get him a little bit of work. It’s his first action. It’s like in a preseason game, you’re not going to let a guy go that entire time unless you have to, and we didn’t have to [Sunday].”
Up and down: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 309 yards in his NFL debut, but he also made a fair share of mistakes with three interceptions and a fumble.
Luck, 22, said he battled nerves before the opening kickoff.
“Definitely a little anxious,” Luck said. “Some butterflies. It takes sort of that first play to say, ‘I remember how to take a snap. Good. I can hand the ball off. Good.’ ”
But Luck said his overall performance was bad against the Bears.
“Three picks and a fumble for me, those are killers,” Luck said. “A lot of credit goes to them for making those plays. Not too many fond memories I think of [with] an opening loss.”
Staying power: Long snapper Patrick Mannelly set a franchise record by appearing in his 15th season with the team.
Mannelly, 37, surpassed longtime linebackers Doug Buffone (1966-79) and Bill George (1952-65), who each played 14 seasons on the lakefront. The Bears selected Mannelly in the sixth round of the 1998 NFL draft after his college career at Duke.
Mannelly has played in 216 games for the Bears, which is also a franchise record.
Bears bits: Matt Forte gained 120 yards from scrimmage (80 rushing, 40 receiving), which moved him past Gale Sayers for fourth place in franchise history with 6,338 total yards. … The Bears scored three rushing touchdowns for the first time since Oct. 4, 2009, against Detroit. … The Bears’ inactive players included receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and punter Ryan Quigley.
“If our offense keeps doing what they’re doing, we’re going to be pretty good. We stopped ourselves a few times, but it was fun to watch. I had a good seat in the second half.”
– Bears LB Brian Urlacher
“That [start] was just a lack of effort right there. We weren’t focused. It was like pregame jitters, we had to get focused. As you could see, it looked like everybody was focused after that.”
– RB Matt Forte
“I’m not going to make any predictions about how far we’re going to go. It’s one game. It’s a good start. We did some good things. We have a short week coming up, have to get prepared for the next game.”
– DE Julius Peppers
3 things that worked
1. RB Michael Bush at the goal line – One reason the Bears signed Bush, who at 245 pounds is 27 pounds heavier than Matt Forte, is for short-yardage situations. He had a pair of 1-yard TD runs.
2. FB Evan Rodriguez as a lead blocker – He missed one early, but more than made up for it later, springing Forte on several long runs, including a 32-yarder that helped set up the Bears’ first score.
3. The Bears’ defense held the Colts to 63 rushing yards – Indianapolis did not seem particularly interested in running a lot, but 63 is a good number (36 of those came on two Donald Brown carries).
3 things that didn’t work
1. Opening drive – The Bears gave up a 12-yard loss on a sack on a missed block from tight end Kellen Davis on the game’s first play, then a false start to follow it. A low snap and bad throw on third down led to a three-and-out and great Colts’ field position.
2. Forcing the ball to WR Brandon Marshall – After the two connected initially, QB Jay Cutler threw four incompletions his way before they connected again.
3. Kelvin Hayden at CB – The Colts took advantage when Charles Tillman was knocked out of the game and WR Reggie Wayne finished with nine catches for 135 yards on 18 targets.
3 moments that mattered
1. Cutler finds room – Cutler found Marshall for a 13-yard gain and first down on third-and-10 at his own 20 to spring the Bears’ first touchdown drive. Until that point, it had been all negatives on offense for the Bears.
2. Forte’s one-handed catch – Forte gained 31 yards on a short pass that was nearly out of his reach and set Bears up for 3-yard Cutler-to-Marshall TD on the next play to give the Bears a 14-7 lead.
3. Jennings’ picks – CB Tim Jennings nabbed his first of two interceptions early in the second half on a long pass intended for WR Donnie Avery. The Bears added a field goal after that turnover.
It means: The Bears will head to Green Bay on Thursday even with Detroit and Minnesota in the NFC North. All three are one game ahead of the Packers.
– Joe Stevenson, firstname.lastname@example.org