INDIANAPOLIS – The defensive bar for the Bears’ No. 1 defense was set low by last week’s poor start against the Miami Dolphins, who in two possessions involving starters, gained 132 yards on 21 plays, with a touchdown on Miami’s first possession.
This time the No. 1 defense, faced with a genuine elite quarterback in Andrew Luck, managed to sack him once, limit him to 5-for-9 passing in his three series and while allowing a touchdown, made Luck earn it with a scramble away from pressure.
The various defensive units, with rookies Adrian Amos starting at safety and Eddie Goldman playing the majority of the game at nose tackle, combined for four sacks, three tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. The Bears held the Colts, the NFL’s No. 6 scoring team and No. 3 yardage producers last year, to 11 points and 229 yards. Preseason to be sure, and limited Luck time, but consider it an improvement from the 343 yards allowed to the Dolphins last week.
“I thought we improved,” said coach John Fox. "Obviously I didn’t like the way we started a week ago. We let them off the hook a couple times with some mistakes. We still had mistakes tonight. But I think we ended up plus-one in turnover ratio and that’s always helpful.”
Rookie Eddie Goldman played extensively at nose tackle after Jeremiah Ratliff started, and Goldman took another step in his NFL development. Goldman provided a stout presence against the run throughout, and got some surprising middle push on Indianapolis quarterbacks. He recovered the Matt Hasselbeck fumble forced by the Sam Acho sack in the third quarter, which was in part caused by Goldman collapsing the pocket back into Hasselbeck’s lap.
Will Sutton broke through for a sack (of Hasselbeck) in the second quarter to force the Colts to settle for a field goal on a possible TD drive. “It just fell right in my lap,” Sutton said, laughing. “I just got off a block, and there he was, so I got him.” Sutton was credited with three solo tackles, one for a loss and a quarterback hit.
Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, both returning from season-ending injuries in 2014, were in uniform for the first time since their injuries, both having been held out of the Miami Dolphins game. “I think they showed good progress and good confidence building in practice,” said Fox. “I think they both probably feel good about getting over that hump.” Houston was credited with one assisted tackle.
David Bass notched a sack, four tackles, one for loss, and a quarterback hit.
Pernell McPhee delivered exactly what the Bears thought they were getting when they made the former Baltimore Raven their priority signing of the offseason. McPhee sacked Luck on the Colts’ second play, forced a Luck throwaway with a near-sack on the third, and closed down for a tackle on the first play of Indianapolis’ next series.
Not to be outdone, Jared Allen power-rushed left tackle Anthony Costanzo to force Luck to misfire on another throw in the first quarter.
Sam Acho made multiple statement plays in the win over Miami and this game delivered a sack in the third quarter that produced a fumble that Eddie Goldman recovered and the offense converted into a touchdown. “Our guys inside, Eddie and Brandon Dunn, got great push,” Acho said. “Brandon was actually holding onto his feet as I was coming around the edge. Anytime you get pressure up front, it helps the edge rusher, too.”
Coverage had its moments, highlighted by cornerback Terrance Mitchell out-fighting Indianapolis wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a second-quarter pass from veteran Hasselbeck. Mitchell has consistently flashed with plays during training camp.
Kyle Fuller embarrassed himself in the second quarter by being thoroughly beaten (without safety help) for a 45-yard gain from Luck to T.Y. Hilton. Fuller then handed the Colts 15 more yards for taunting.
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The game was the first start for rookie fifth-round safety Adrian Amos, who was credited with three tackles, one a solid open-field solo tackle on speed wideout Phillip Dorsett. “We kind of had him on a pitch count [and] we were kind of taking him out when the first unit came out,” said Fox. Brock Vereen, who lost his starting job to Amos, played physical against the run with a couple of stops in the box.
Alan Ball allowed Moncrief to run free for a 20-yard completion in the second quarter and was nowhere close to the receiver when Hasselbeck’s pass arrived.