So before I get into what was an ultimately engrossing, hard-fought game between two teams destined for the bottom or near-bottom of their respective divisions, I should probably talk a bit about the tailgating scene and arena atmosphere, because it was actually pretty solid. Not quite Kansas City solid, but there were pockets of Bears parties we walked through all the way to the stadium. It’s not as dedicated of a tailgating area, but tailgaters made it worth it. I don’t recall any particularly rough encounters with the fans, but, for it being a game between two 1-3 teams, nobody’s going to be too feisty.
Going to the game itself, it was largely a back and forth affair. Both quarterbacks went over a 115.0 passer rating (Brian Hoyer had a 120.0 even) on the day as both defenses effectively decided to sit this game out. But in the end, a bad offensive read by Hoyer ended a game that was at the least in reach for the Bears in the 4th quarter.
We should probably start at the beginning, because the first drive for the Bears was interesting in terms of getting the ball to a number of different receivers - first to Alshon Jeffery, then to Zach Miller, then to Jordan Howard (he also got a pair of carries on this drive), then after a penalty by Josh Sitton a couple of throws to Eddie Royal, Howard, and a toss to Ka’Deem Carey for the first down to the Indianapolis 11. A Howard face mask penalty eliminated a Cameron Meredith reception to the 1 yard line and the Bears settled for a short field goal, which Connor Barth didn’t screw up.
The Colts matched with an intense, up-tempo offense as Andrew Luck got Frank Gore and T.Y. Hilton going early, and after a sack by Willie Young (!) to force third and 11 from the Bears’ 36, Adam Vinatieri knocked in a 54-yard field goal. After a short three and out, the Colts put together a 12 play, 80 yard touchdown drive highlighted by a couple hard Frank Gore runs, a 22 yard short pass to Quan Bray, and a fourth-down decision ending in a throw to Dwayne Allen for the score. It was the right decision, especially home and early in the game.
Both sides settled for a field goal on their next drives. Hoyer found Meredith for 30 yards on 1st and 10 from their own 42; after a holding penalty on Kyle Long brought the Bears back to 3rd and 13 at the Indianaoplis 31, Barth knocked home a 49 yard field goal. Luck came back and scrambled around to find Hilton for 22 yards; on fourth and 1 from the Bears 35, Vinatieri hit another 53-yard field goal.
The undaunted Bears charged down the field in a hurry. Howard took the shotgun snap from 1st and 10 at the 25 and found an opening for 57 yards. Meredith took the next catch 11 yards to the 4 and, after Howard’s ensuing touchdown run was negated by (surprise!) a Bears offensive penalty, Hoyer found Meredith for 14 yards and the touchdown.
The Colts answered back with points before the half; Luck again scrambled to find Hilton ffor 31 yards downfield. Luck would find Hilton twice more in the drive to push the ball to the 10 for first and goal. But Young wrapped up his second sack of the game and the Colts settled for the field goal.
After both sides punted to open the second half, the Colts picked up another field goal. Luck hit Dwayne Allen to move to 1st and 10 at the 43. On 2nd and 3, Akiem Hicks picked up a sack of the Indy quarterback, but Luck converted the 3rd and 11. On 3rd and 5 at the 20, Jonathan Bullard sacked Luck for the Bears’ fourth sack of the game and the Colts made it 19-13.
The Bears looked like they were ready to match the score if not go ahead, as Henry Anderson was flagged for unnecessary roughness to push the ball to the Indianapolis 37, but a delay of game penalty helped create a failed 3rd and 9 situation. Barth missed the 54-yard field goal wide right, but Indianapolis was flagged for running into the kicker! He can’t miss with another try from five yard up, right?
Yeah, about that. This time, the 49-yarder sailed left.
But all was not lost. After an intentional grounding penalty on Luck, the Bears pushed for a field goal. The nine play drive was kicked off by a 38 yard throw to Alshon and a 14 yard throw to Josh Bellamy moved the ball to the Indianapolis 11. A throw to Meredith only got 5 yards and Hoyer missed Royal on third down, so Barth came in and thankfully didn’t miss the 24 yard attempt.
After another punt brought on by Willie Young’s third sack of the game (and a very nice 74-yard punt by Pat McAfee that had just the right roll on it), the Bears found themselves at 1st and 10 on their own 31. Zach Miller took the throw and rumbled for 23 yards; later, Hoyer found Meredith for 14 yards, then on the next play, a short throw to Jordan was taken through the middle for the touchdown and the Bears were in front, 23-19.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Luck found Allen short for 20 yards, then Young was hit with an offsides penalty/neutral zone infraction to just bring the Colts short of midfield. Three plays later Luck found Hilton streaking down the middle and the two connected to make it 26-23.
The very next play, Hoyer threw to Cameron Meredith on the right side... who promptly fumbled. As in, it was close between the fumble and an incomplete pass. To be honest, I hadn’t felt that Meredith had made a football move or taken the step towards possessing it fully before losing it, but the call was “call stands” - it just couldn’t be overturned. The Bears at the least held the Colts to one more field goal and took the ball with about two and a half minutes remaining.
Hoyer found Meredith again for 13 yards, then to Jeffery for 15 yards and to Miller for another 17 to bring the ball to the Indianapolis 30 yard line. On second and ten, Hoyer got 5 yards to move to 3rd and 5, which is fine in four-down territory. Then Bobbie Massie picked up a holding penalty to make it 3rd and 15 on an incompletion to Meredith.
Time for Hoyer magic for the win? ... No.
Hoyer found Royal for 7 yards, but on 4th and 8, and with Jeffery more open than a 7-11, Hoyer didn’t even look in his direction. He missed Meredith on the right side, and that was the game.
- This game kind of highlighted one of the key differences between Hoyer and Jay Cutler that I’d like to discuss before we get too far into things. I’m not going to go so far as to say that if Cutler’s in the game the Bears win, but I am going to say that for what it’s worth, Cutler is more prone to attempting the “Receiver Makes Plays” throw than Hoyer is, whereas Hoyer is better at trying to spread the ball around and going through his progressions. To this point, I can think of one (if that) 50-50 ball or jump ball that Hoyer has thrown in Jeffery’s direction, and if Cutler’s throwing the rock, I’m fairly certain that 4th and 8 throw is going hard towards Jeffery.
- Did Hoyer play great? Statistically he was great. In the eye test, he missed some throws that would have at the least extended a drive and he hasn’t quite worked to get Jeffery completely involved in the game. He’s quick to get the ball out and with the improved protection he’s had the receivers get to work a bit, but that’s largely benefiting the short to intermediate game. It’s a quick-hitting, efficient gameplan, for sure, but it does still stall out and kill drives, and makes an outing that was one play away from being a 30 point game into a game the Bears lose. The Bears can win like this and with this quarterback play - but in lieu of the Bears’ defense holding opponents to 20 or lower, it’s going to take finding ways to get the deep play back in working order and getting the ball back into Jeffery’s hands, and Hoyer doesn’t have the huge playmaking arm that Cutler does.
- Jordan Howard is looking very solid against two less than stellar defenses, but can we take a minute to appreciate the freaking day Cameron Meredith had, “close call fumble” notwithstanding? When Meredith has seen the field in the couple of opportunities he’s had between last year and this year, he’s flashed pretty well.
- The Bears’ five sacks on the day could have been at least 7 if he weren’t so good at tossing up a prayer to T.Y. Hilton and having Hilton go find it. Bryce Callahan got burned a couple times until he left with an injury, and Jacoby Glenn had no chance en route to Hilton’s monster day. The Brother was happy with Hilton’s day for his fantasy team, but the Bears' secondary had no answer for “speed guy outplays defensive backs while chasing desperation heaves.”
- While the defense has had very few times of having a full complement of weapons, I'm a little surprised they aren't trying to do more creative rushes or other ways to increase the pass rush. I get that it's a little more difficult to do with backups but isn't that why you get creative - when straight up just isn't getting home? And yes, I am aware I'm saying this in a recap for a game where the Bears got five sacks, but it's more a note for the future as well as possibly helping bring down Luck a little more easily.
- The Bears’ run defense looked about as okay as one could reasonably expect for allowing 4.7 YPC, as Danny Trevathan returned to the lineup. Frank Gore got to celebrate passing Jim Brown on the all-time leaderboard and got to enjoy a 5.4 YPC day himself but I didn't get the sense the Colts were "running all over" the Bears. The Luck/Hilton connection may have had something to say about that, however.
- Speaking of run/pass distribution, did you know the Bears had fewer runs than the Colts did? Jordan Howard racked up a 7.4 YPC day and 118 yards on 16 carries, a very nice day on a subpar defense. Of course that means a 43 attempt day for Hoyer, which is still a greater than 2 to 1 distribution. This needs to balance out especially when you have a guy pulling that kind of YPC. That's not to knock Hoyer's stats on the day but it does stress that hey, Loggains still goes to the route trees and quick passes at the first sneeze.
- The next time the Bears avoid having a drive-killing penalty will be the first. 10 penalties is too damn much.
- In further "ball control" watch, TOP for this game was near identical with the Colts having a 3 play control advantage.
- The Bears of course still couldn't figure out third downs, only converting two of 9 on the day, though the intermediate passing game converted a number of first downs on first and second down. Which is fine, but picking up five extra first downs and still not being able to convert on third down just means that drives still stall out. Yardage is fine, but ultimately those drives need to end in points, especially touchdowns, and certainly not missed field goals.
- Connor Barth, your competition awaits, sir.
I think that will do it for this one. In the end, the Bears put up a ton of yardage, the most ever for the Bears in a loss, but that's all this game ended up as, a loss. They couldn't solve the Colts on third down, they couldn't solve the T.Y. Hilton connection, and they couldn't find an open man to keep the final drive alive. Thus, they're 1-4 and heading into week 6 against Jacksonville.
What are your thoughts on yesterday's loss?