This NFL preseason can’t be categorized as a breeze so far for the Indianapolis Colts.
After limited duty in their exhibition opener, the Colts’ starters were supposed to deliver a solid performance against the Chicago Bears Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But that sure didn’t happen.
The halftime scoreboard credited the Colts with a 11-9 lead. But before quarterback Andrew Luck scored on a 5-yard scramble and hit Andre Johnson for a two-point conversion in the second quarter, the Bears dominated much of the action.
The final score — Bears 23, Colts 11 — is merely a matter of record in the category of “it doesn’t count.”
What counted was much of the opening half, when Luck didn’t have time to throw and the Colts’ defense played “bend-but-don’t-break” and gave up yards in chunks before stiffening near its end zone.
That’s not how Super Bowl contenders are supposed to play, preseason or not.
Protection continued to be spotty at best as Luck completed only one of his first four passes and missed a wide-open Andre Johnson on two attempts.
The Bears outgained the Colts 75-14 in the first quarter. But the visitors also settled for Robbie Gould field goals instead of finishing drives. That might seem like a win for the defense, but it’s this lack of resistance against teams like the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots that plagued the Colts last season.
Luck made the most of his final possession, but it didn’t take off until after wide receiver T.Y. Hilton dropped an easy pass over the middle. The next play, the Colts’ $65-million man made amends by hauling in a 45-yard bomb.
The Bears compounded the damage with a taunting penalty. Three plays later, Luck couldn’t find anyone open on a third-and-1 play, so he tucked it and scored on a 5-yard run.
Instead of kicking the point after touchdown, the Colts opted to go for two and Luck hit an open Johnson just inside the scoring pylon.
The defense couldn’t hold the lead, though, as the Bears drove 51 yards for another Gould field goal and a 9-8 lead.
If not for a Bears mistake near the end of the half, the Colts wouldn’t have led at the break.
Backup Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen had a miscommunication with tight end Dante Rosario — the pass was thrown as if Rosario was expected to come back to the ball. Instead, Colts reserve cornerback Sheldon Price was the only guy there. Easy interception.
That set up Adam Vinatieri for a 25-yard field goal on the first half’s final play.
Rookie wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, the Colts’ first-round draft choice, gave fans a scare when he injured his right knee in the third quarter. But it wasn’t serious. He was listed as probable to return. He didn’t, but the team decided to be cautious.
The Colts gave running back Frank Gore a couple of carries early on as he ran for 10 yards, then called it a night before the other starters.
The second half belonged to the Bears’ subs, who scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. Price gave up the latter to make it 23-11.
A 36-10 loss at Philadelphia last Sunday was basically written off as the Colts giving young players the chance to play. Luck had just 11 snaps in that game.
But the Colts approached this game differently. And, by most accounts, they were the better team during Wednesday and Thursday joint practices with the Bears at the Indianapolis complex.
Still, Chicago exited with its second preseason victory and some confidence after spending much of the week in the Hoosier state capitol.
The Colts have now lost seven consecutive preseason games, which means proverbial optimists will remind this is the norm, and that three consecutive 11-win regular seasons are a reminder these games shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Next up for the Colts are countless questions about what’s wrong followed by a Saturday night road trip to St. Louis to face the Rams.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.