Chicago, IL – The Andrew Luck era got off to an underwhelming start on Sunday.
Luck, the top pick in April's draft, had an inconsistent debut for the Indianapolis Colts, while Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears overcame a sluggish start and cruised to a 41-21 victory at Soldier Field.
Cutler, who missed the final six games in 2011 with a thumb injury, was intercepted by Jerrell Freeman for a Colts touchdown early in the first quarter, but finished with 333 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-35 passing.
Offseason acquisition Brandon Marshall, Cutler's former go-to receiver in Denver, dominated to the tune of 119 yards and a score on nine catches.
Matt Forte ran for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Michael Bush added a pair of short scoring plunges for Chicago (1-0), which went 7-3 under Cutler last season, then lost five of six and missed the playoffs after the signal-caller went down.
"We didn't start off too fast," said Forte. "We had a little bit of the first- game jitters."
The Colts, of course, finished 2-14 in 2011 and landed the No. 1 overall pick as a result.
They cleaned house in the aftermath, jettisoning revered quarterback Peyton Manning, who missed the entire season with a neck injury, and bringing in first-time head coach Chuck Pagano.
Luck, the first rookie quarterback to start for Indianapolis since Manning in 1998, went 23-for-45 for 309 yards with a touchdown, three interceptions and a fumble.
"When you're responsible for four turnovers it's hard to win," said Luck. "It's hard to be productive as an offense...not too many fond memories of an opening loss."
Donald Brown had nine carries for 48 yards and a score and Reggie Wayne had 135 receiving yards for the Colts (0-1). Rookie Coby Fleener, Luck's teammate at Stanford, finished with 82 yards on six catches.
Cutler and the Bears were sluggish early. Their first series featured a sack, a false start and ended in a 3-and-out. Then, after a Colts' punt, Freeman stepped in front of Cutler's pass at the Chicago 4-yard line and breezed into the end zone.
Luck, the highly touted Stanford product, was no better. He missed a wide-open Wayne on third down to halt the Colts' first two drives and tallied just one first-down pickup in the opening quarter.
Cutler bounced back from his interception with an impressive 80-yard drive, which featured a 13-yard completion to Marshall, a pair of Colts pass interference penalties and a 32-yard run by Forte. Bush capped the march with a short touchdown plunge midway through the first quarter.
Chicago took a 14-7 lead on its opening drive of the second quarter when a 31- yard, one-handed catch-and-run by Forte set up Marshall's short touchdown grab.
Luck was intercepted by Tim Jennings two plays into the Colts' next possession on an underthrown deep ball and Chicago converted the turnover into Robbie Gould's 35-yard field goal.
On his first pass after the pick, Luck hit Wayne for 23 yards. He found Wayne again, this time for 12 yards, before Brown exploded for an 18-yard touchdown run to make it 17-14 late in the second quarter.
The Bears, though, continued to move the football and Cutler continued to hit open targets during a 72-yard scoring drive. Earl Bennett had a 25-yard reception during the march to set up Bush's 1-yard touchdown run.
The Colts regained possession with 39 seconds left and Luck moved them into field goal range, but Adam Vinatieri was off on a 37-yarder at the end of the half.
Indianapolis went 3-and-out on the first possession of the third quarter and Forte capped a quick, four-play touchdown drive with a pair of six-yard runs for a 31-14 advantage.
LaVon Brazill fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Kelvin Hayden's recovery led to Gould's 26-yard field goal.
The Colts moved into Chicago territory on their next touch, but Luck forced a pass to Wayne in the end zone and a diving Jennings tipped the ball to teammate Chris Conte, who hauled in the interception.
After a Bears punt, Luck was hit by Corey Wootton while releasing the ball and Julius Peppers recovered the fumble near mid-field.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Luck found Kris Adams for 13 yards on 4th-and-10 and later hit Donnie Avery for a four-yard touchdown to make it 34-21.
Cutler responded with a 42-yard scoring strike to rookie Alshon Jeffery to seal the final result.
"It showed the resilience of our offense to come back after giving up a turnover and a touchdown and be able to put a lot of points on the board," continued Forte.
Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher, who missed the preseason while recovering from knee surgery, made two tackles ... The Colts have lost three straight season openers ... Indianapolis leads the all-time series, 22-19. The two teams met in Super Bowl XLI to cap the 2006 NFL season, with the Colts prevailing over Smith's Bears by a 29-17 count.