The magic ran out. The clock struck midnight for Cinderella Chicago Bears in a 19-11 home Loss to the Indianapolis Colts. There were no magic tricks up Nick Foles. Just brute force from a Colts defense that keep the cardiac Bears out of the end zone until there was less than two minutes to play.
By then, it was too late. There would be no fourth quarter comeback in this game. The Colts defense was that good. The Bears managed only 28 rushing yards. That allowed Indy to just sit back in passing protection, utilizing a two high safety zone coverage. During the offseason the Colts aimed to strengthen their defense with the additions of Xavier Rhodes in the secondary and DeForest Buckner on the defensive line.
Chicago struggled against the NFL’s top defense going 4-14 on third downs. They were forced to punt seven times. Chicago only crossed midfield four times, resulting in one punt, one interception, one field goal, the late game touchdown.
Matt Nagy said afterwards, “credit to who they are and how they play together. We knew going into this game that it was going to be this style of game just because of how they play and what they do. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to run the ball, but I thought that, you know, you just felt like a rush for two, a rush for three, a rush for two, a rush for three, a rush for two, a long rush of six; you felt that. Then all of a sudden you look up and it’s the end of the third quarter, and we are trying to get a rhythm, and it just is. It was hard, and that’s a credit to them.”
Neither offense was prolific, but trash talking Phillip Rivers had the edge behind center, going 16-29 totaling 190 yards and a touchdown toss to tight end Mo Alie-Cox. By contrast Nick Foles was 26-42 for 249 yards, and interception, and a late touchdown pass to Allen Robinson.
Robinson commented, “We didn’t have many explosive plays. You have to be able to threaten them and get them out of their comfort zone. They were a team that played a lot of zone. We were getting a a lot of quarter, quarter and a half. A lot ‘two high safeties,’ which is tougher to pass against. We got to figure out how to be able get the run game going to help us out a little bit so we can get some ‘single high’ and be able to pass the ball more efficiently.”
Colts coach Frank Reich described it as a hard fought game, “You guys might know me enough that there were a couple times there where when we had the fourth and one early on, I normally am going to go for that nine times out of ten. But that’s an example where, listen, I’m not just putting it on autopilot on every one of those decisions to go for it when it’s fourth and really short. But I just felt like the way our defense was playing at that point early in the game and we had the lead, I just didn’t want to create a momentum shift that if for some reason we didn’t make it on offense. And just had a lot of confidence in the defense, a lot of confidence in Rodrigo punting them back down in there, and then us getting a three and out and getting some position. Now, they came out and made a play. They made a deep play. One of the few plays they made right there. But, and then there were times where the way I called it was just a little bit thinking it was just one of these games. I just said, it was tough defensive game and play smart, ran it on third down a couple times, not trying to force it down in there, run the clock, and do that kind of stuff.”
Still, the Bears managed to “hold” the Colts to nineteen points. They made some stops when they had to as Akiem Hicks noted, “Yeah, I think that’s part of how we’re built. We understand that there are going to be plays that we give up during the course of the game, but there’s a desire, right, there’s an ambition to be productive and to make those plays that our team needs. So I think that when it comes to those situations, we are going to win our fair share as a defense and we have to shore up those other occasions where they are not able to complete and get that first down. Make no mistake, the game of football, there’s a reason why that everyone gives up a couple points. They are going to get a couple of first downs, and your job is to make sure once you get into that red zone, you’re fighting and you’re not giving up and you’re not saying, okay, they march down forty, fifty yards. Let’s just give them a touchdown and get off the field. Our mindset is to punish our opponent until the very last second, so that’s what we do.”
Rivers gave his defense credit for carrying the day. “I thought it was one of those games where we did what we had to do to win a game like this,” he said. “Certainly, some things to clean up, a couple missed throws I wish I had back. And then credit to their D too. It was a good front and good secondary over there, and then there was a couple things here and there. Obviously we punted more today than I think we punted all year in the first three games. But we didn’t turn it over. We finished the game with a big drive at the end to get three and those are big-time drives. Those are the ones you look back and go, ‘Man, can we get that done?’ Those are drives you got to have to get done to get to where we want to go.”
He added, “So it was just an overall good team win. I kind of felt like it was going to be a little bit of a grinder coming into this week. I didn’t think it was going to be just smooth sailing. Obviously, we scored that first drive. But, again, there’s a lot to clean up, but I think that’s okay. I think good teams you can leave a game where you won and the defense, again, was unbelievable and win and still have a lot to clean up. But not, we didn’t do the dumb things. We didn’t turn the ball over three times. We didn’t do a lot of those things. So I think that’s key. So a lot to build on, but certainly some things we need to do better.”
It’s a very good defense. I think it’s a very, very sound defense. You can just tell by the way they play. It’s a team that plays a decent amount of zone coverage. At the end of the day, those guys know their responsibilities. They know where their help is at. They tried to keep everything in front of them. When you don’t get any explosive plays and you allow them to keep everything in front of you, it’s very tough.-Allen Robinson
Nick Foles tired to keep a positive spin on things. “I felt great with Coach Nagy calling the plays. It’s as simple as we just have to execute better. I have to execute better, and if we do that, we’re going to be in a position to win the game. We’ve got a little bit; we got down in the red zone and unfortunately the pick happened and we marched down again and we were able to get a touchdown. And I think the big thing you see from that is guys didn’t give up. We kept fighting, and that’s something you can build on. We have made the first four weeks of the season pretty hard on ourselves, so it’s something where we have to continue to improve and get better and just go out there and play good team ball and if we do that, I think some really good things will happen.”
Nagy wasn’t overly concerned about Foles performance on Sunday either, believing strongly that Foles will see his accuracy improve. “Just his experiences of been here done that. It’s comforting to know that when you go thru those situations, there no concern. We don’t an issue. we have to find solution on third down. is it execution? is it schematics? One of his biggest strengths is he has a lot of calmness to him, and he doesn’t get too panicked, and it permeates through the team.”
Foles knows there is a quick turnaround as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers come to Chicago for a Thursday night game. “I think the big thing is, you know, we have a schedule tomorrow and we get back to work. The little attention to details, and just continue to talk through it. Continue to build this culture. Continue to have these conversations about the plays, and honestly, taking ownership. I think the big thing as players is we have to take ownership to get better, and this locker room has that ability and that is the type of locker room that is here.We have coaches that are ready to roll, that are going to put us in position, and we are going to continue to grow from this. I’ve been on some special teams where we had a few hiccups along the way, and it’s how you deal with these situations that makes you a special team. So I like the locker room that we have here and I believe in it.”
During his Monday morning press conference Nagy stated, “Let’s get the run game going. Let’s understand where we can get with that. Let’s get some chunk plays out of the run game which will help the pass game. We just didn’t have a lot of opportunities in the red zone. When you’re down there you got to come away with touchdowns. I feel really good about our players. I feel good about our coaches. We’re sitting at 3-1 right now. So after four games no matter who we play and how they come, that’s where we’re at. We feel we can certainly get a lot better, then hopefully we can become a team that puts it all together at the right time.”