The effect of having quarterback Jay Cutler in the lineup for the first time in preseason couldn't have been more profound Saturday for the Chicago Bears.

On the Bears' first play from scrimmage, Cutler found his new receiver and former Denver Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall for 41 yards -- the same number of yards the offense had without Cutler for the entire first half of their preseason opener. Chicago then went on to a 33-31 victory over the Washington Redskins.

Cutler completed 7 of 13 for 122 yards and led three scoring drives before leaving with a 17-0 lead 6 1/2 minutes before halftime.

"It's fun to be back out there," said Cutler, who missed the first game due to the birth of his son. "Last game it was tough to have to only watch.

"We had a good week of practice. I thought there was a lot more intensity and a bigger sense of urgency from the guys. We threw the first one to 'B' (Marshall) and we started rolling a little bit."

Cutler could have handed off the entire half and the Bears offense would have looked better than the first game, when they lost 31-3 to Denver. But everything clicked starting with his connection to Marshall. He also hit Marshall for 20 yards before finding Alshon Jeffery for 16 to set up a Bears score on the first drive.

"We felt like we needed to throw the ball tonight," coach Lovie Smith said. "We thought that they would gang up on the run."

The running game looked strong, as well, after the passing game loosened up Washington's defense. Michael Bush had 21 first-half yards and TD runs of 1 and 8 yards. A week after the backs ran for 28 total yards , they gained 43 in the first half alone on 11 attempts.

Well protected: The offensive line that struggled protecting QB Jason Campbell last week was far better for Cutler. J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams alternated at left tackle and neither had trouble, although they were helped when Redskins star OLB Brian Orakpo left early in the game with a shoulder injury.

The line played well enough that the Bears outgained Washington 262-101 yards in the first half.

"The offensive line knows it starts with them, and if they play well we'll take care of the rest," Cutler said.

Sack man: Israel Idonije came into training camp saying he needed to finish off plays for sacks more often this season than last year when he had five sacks. He did exactly that in the first half by sacking Robert Griffin III 2 1/2 times. He shared one sack with DT Matt Toeaina.

Idonije sometimes came from the inside and sometimes the outside as the Bears put him at tackle in the nickel and brought in rookie DE Shea McClellin.

His sack and forced fumble was recovered by Julius Peppers to set up the second Bears score on an 8-yard run by Bush.

"He had good pressure as a defensive end, but also inside when we played him there in nickel packages," Smith said.

Scary scene: A neck injury suffered by S Brandon Hardin created a scary scene. On the first play from scrimmage of the second half he went down after making a tackle and had to be lifted on a stretcher to a cart and taken to the hospital. While being removed from the field, Hardin was moving his hands and talking, and he gave a thumbs-up sign. "Whenever you see a player get taken off on a stretcher it's not a good thing," Smith said. "We think Brandon Hardin will be OK. He was moving everything. He was alert, conscious throughout. So hopefully everything will be OK with him."

Scary team: Idonije and the defense liked what they saw early in the game when the offense was exploding.

"We were having a party on the sidelines," he said. "The defense was watching them. I mean: first down, first down, big play. It's just a lot of fun.

"The potential that we as a defense will have, having an offense like that behind us, it's going to be exciting."

Injury rash: Punter Adam Podlesh suffered a hip pointer trying to make a tackle on a 91-yard Brandon Banks punt return for a TD. Podlesh was replaced by punter/kicker Ryan Quigley. Safety Chris Conte suffered a right shoulder injury, and left the game. That meant the Bears finished the game without their first two free safeties. Anthony Walters played there after Marshall left.

Almost a prophet: Robbie Gould matched his career regular-season long with the game-winning 57-yard field goal after Washington third- and fourth-stringers rallied from a 30-10 deficit for a 31-30 lead.

"When they went ahead, I guess 31-30, right after they scored, Robbie Gould came over to me and said, 'Lovie, we're going to get the ball, we're going to go down and kick a 58-yard field goal and we're going to win the game.' " Smith said. "And he was off by a yard."

Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLCHI.