INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are on the Bears’ preseason schedule (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.) but not on the regular-season slate. Ostensibly not having to face quarterback Andrew Luck when it counts is a good thing for the Bears and their still-forming defense. Not necessarily.
“I wish he was [on the schedule],” said linebacker Pernell McPhee, laughing. “Then I would get an opportunity to hit one of the best quarterbacks in the league today.”
Luck makes lots of defenses suffer, in different ways, and at many, many times over the two days of Bears-Colts joint practices, Luck made the Bears suffer, looking every bit one of the best quarterbacks in the league today. His mobility and intentional scrambling to force defenders to cover longer, his accuracy and the rest of the package gave the Bears a small dose of hands-on prep for some of what they will be facing opening day with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
“Absolutely,” said cornerback Tim Jennings. “Because it was different, the receiver corps was different than what we see in practice, the quarterback… . It was a great quarterback that we played against, and the competition. So we were able to go out here and compete a little bit and see a different face and go out there and compete with a top offense like Andrew Luck and the Colts.”
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Luck had his way with the Bears’ defense on Wednesday but the Bears were able to break up a number of his passes on Thursday, led by cornerback Sherrick McManis with a deflection and later a strip of the ball from Luck’s receiver.
Luck and the Colts did finish with a flourish, shredding the Bears in a final two-minute drive that culminated with a Luck strike to wideout T.Y. Hilton in the left side of the end zone.
“We’re probably not as oiled up in two-minute drill as Indy is at this stage,” coach John Fox said. “But all in all, I was very pleased.”
Like Rodgers, Luck routinely rolls himself out of the pocket late in plays, even without direct pressure. The result is a need to extend coverage a second or two longer, which Bears defenders remarked on this week.
But the immediate strongest single impression of Luck was not of his physical skills.
“He’s very smart,” McPhee stressed. He detailed an example, a third-and-one play in two-minute work Thursday in which the Colts were in an illegal formation. Luck did not want to spend a timeout or run the play and take a penalty. Instead he took it upon himself to improvise a hard count, the defense jumped, and the play was a do-over because of offsetting penalties.
“I don’t think the coach said a hard count and he [did a] hard count and the whole defense jumped and he got his third-and-one back,” McPhee said, shaking his head. “You feel me? You know he’s a very smart quarterback. He took all reads. He doesn’t try to get rid of the ball too fast. He’ll sit in the pocket and play football.”