Life is good for Gabe Carimi.
The Bears right tackle had a strong outing in the season opener against the Colts; a performance worthy of a game ball from his teammates. Any lingering concerns about his surgically repaired right knee vanished as the former first-round pick played a full game for the first time in almost a year.
Not to mention that he gained momentum in preparation for his home-state team, the Packers. Yet Carimi is far from satisfied.
"I don't think anyone is overconfident right now,'' he said. "One win doesn't mean much, really. ... We know we have to put a good season together. Beating a great opponent like Green Bay and starting off 2-0 would be a great thing to do.''
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice expects greatness from his much-maligned offensive line and won't be satisfied until all his linemen are in sync "like the Rockettes.'' As much progress as the line showed against the Colts, skepticism and criticism will follow if the front five falters at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
"We have to put two games together,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said when asked about the line. "The thing about being in the NFL, you have to be consistent. Each week is hard to get W's. Each week is hard to beat the guy across from you, and the offensive line knows that.
"They have to put another one together on Thursday in a short week against a defense that shows you a lot of different looks, and against a premier pass-rusher in the league.''
The Packers secondary looks vulnerable, but that won't mean much if Cutler fails to stay upright. He has been sacked 19 times in six-career games against the Packers to go with 11 interceptions and a 67.5 passer rating. Plus outside linebacker Clay Matthews might be the most disruptive pass-rusher Cutler and his protectors see all season, outside of Julius Peppers in practice.
Matthews had 21/2 sacks and four quarterback hits in a season-opening loss to the 49ers. Tice expects Matthews to rush from both sides but primarily from the left against Carimi.
"(Matthews) likes to pass, so I'm going to get him to run sometimes, tire him out a little bit,'' Carimi said with sarcasm. "He's an explosive guy. He has a great second move. He's either going to run straight up the field, try to beat you with speed, then jab rush you and give you a bull rush. Or he's going to pretend to come inside like he's going to hard hit you with a spin move.''
Oddly enough, the Bears neutralized Matthews the last they faced the Packers with Cutler at quarterback — a 27-17 Packers victory at Soldier Field last September. Matthews, who went without a sack, played the entire game on the left side and didn't exactly dominate his one-on-one battles against then-Bears right tackle Frank Omiyale. Matthews, however, had a quad injury then.
In that same game, the Packers blitzed the Bears 10 times, including four by veteran defensive back Charles Woodson. Matt Forte did an exceptional job picking off Woodson and needs to duplicate the effort Thursday night.
If the Bears mirror the offensive effort they displayed against the Colts on Sunday — and maybe sprinkle in a few more run plays for Forte, based on the Packers' porous run defense — they might end their four--game losing streak in Green Bay. Cutler had plenty of time to throw in the opener, and his ability to audible resulted in a 42-yard touchdown pass to rookie Alshon Jeffery off a seven-step drop.
Brandon Marshall and Jeffery are sure to be more physical with the Packers defensive backs than Bears receivers have been in recent years. And the line passed its initial test of the season against a 3-4 defense featuring two established pass-rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, although Freeney exited the game with a sprained ankle. Mathis had the Colts' two sacks on Cutler.
The performances of left tackle J'Marcus Webb and Carimi were something to build upon regardless of the circumstances.
"We're going to have the same game plan as last week,'' Carimi said. "Not exactly verbatim obviously, because that would be kind of stupid. But we're going to have to block their linebackers. If you duck your head, they're going to beat you every time. So you can't be real aggressive with them — on the pass rush, at least.
"They've got good players over there. You just have to know your opponent, really.''
It's safe to say the Bears and Packers know each other pretty well.