Bears Hold Off Colts in a Sloppy One

The Colts and the Bears looked like teams badly in need of at least two more preseason games at the RCA Dome on Saturday night. The Bears emerged with a 24-17 win, but there was no clear-cut winner tonight outside of linebacker Gary Brackett and defensive end Robert Mathis who both played terrific games.

It must have been the driving rain and the muddy field conditions. Or maybe the cold and the snow.

No wait, the Colts and the Bears were playing indoors on Saturday night at the RCA Dome, so how could their first-half play have been so sloppy?

Bears quarterback Chad Hutchison threw two interceptions.

The Colts faltered on their first possession thanks to three consecutive false starts by three different players. Both teams finished the first half with six penalties each.

Colts running back Edgerrin James carried 6 times for just 4 yards and coughed up the ball twice -- on two consecutive carries. Dominic Rhodes and Peyton Manning both lost the handle on the ball as well for a total of four Colts fumbles in the half. But the Bears were just barely outdone, putting the ball on the turf three times, recovering all of theirs.

A meager Seven yards rushing in the half had to leave the Colts scratching their heads over what the heck is going on with their running game. Meanwhile, their rush defense gave up 60 yards and a TD to the Bears' Adrian Peterson.

The Colts special teams allowed punt returner Bobby Wade to return one for a 54-yard touchdown while Mike Vanderjagt missed a 50-yard field goal attempt to end the first half.

But for the Colts, the news wasn't all bad during the first 30 minutes.

Robert Mathis was on top of his game, logging an impressive three sacks and two forced fumbles in the first half. Darrel Reid added another sack for a total of four, while the Colts offense allowed just one.

Peyton Manning couldn't get the offense rolling until the early in the second period, but when he did, he completed 5 out of 8 passes, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Rhodes.

And Brackett's two interceptions were huge to keeping the Colts in the game early.

After the Bears put a 50-yard field goal by Doug Brien on the board early in the second half to push their lead to 17-7, the Colts came right back on the strength of three completions by Jim Sorgi and matched it with a 45-yarder by Vanderjagt.

On the Bears next play, Blake Lobel forced a fumble with a quarterback sack that Jason Stewart recovered to set the Colts up at the Bears' 9. The Colts pounded James Mungro on three consecutive plays to put the touchdown on the board and tie the game at 17 with less than five minutes left in the third quarter.

But the Bears pulled ahead by seven again after completing two passes for a total of 37 yards and utilizing running back Antonio Harris to pound the middle repeatedly. Harris crossed the goal line on a 1-yard run on his eighth carry of the drive.

Jim Sorgi and the Colts didn't respond in kind. Unbelievably, Sorgi was flagged on first down for not getting his team up to the line quick enough on a delay of game. On second down, he fumbled, leading to an eventual punting situation with the clock ticking down.

With just 7 minutes remaining, Travis Brown took over the offense and probably wished he would have stayed on the sideline. After two incomplete passes, he got clobbered for a sack and fumbled. Offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez recovered for his second recovery of the night.

The Bears switched to their fourth quarterback, recently acquired Jeff Blake with 6 minutes left, but they sputtered, giving the Colts a chance with 4:09 remaining.

With Brown out injured and Tom Arth warming up on the sidelines, the Colts incredibly opted to send the lackluster Jim Sorgi back out with the ball at the Colts' 43.

The results looked like something right out of the nightmarish first half.

Sorgi completed a 1-yard pass, but then had a 12-yard completion that was called back due to a tripping penalty on Trevor Hutton. Then his next pass to Roscoe Crosby fell incomplete. And after Lou Lombardo got called for a false start, Sorgi was sacked for an 8-yard loss and the Colts had to punt.

So much for bringing Sorgi back in to salvage the game against lesser competition than he faced earlier.

Thanks to a nice defensive stand, the Colts got one last chance from their own 20 with 1:23 left.

And they finally gave Tom Arth a chance -- if you can call it that.

But Arth made the most of the limited time they gave him. On first down, the Bears came in offsides and sacked Arth. He bounced up and on 1st-and-5 at the 25, he hit Joey Hawkins with a nice pass -- but Hawkins dropped it. On second down he completed the pass to LeVon Thomas up to the 36 by showing nice movement out of the pocket and moving the chains.

Then Arth was victimized by another dropped pass -- this time by running back Vashon Pearson. On 2nd and 10, Arth execute a screen to Pearson, but he hesitated and was smothered for no gain. With the clock ticking, Arth showed good poise, connecting on 3rd-and-10 to Thomas again, this time for an 8-yard gain with 22 seconds left. Arth showed off his running ability and got the first-down on his own at the 50.

But Arth's drive ended there, stopped short only by the final ticks of the clock, moving his team forward thirty yards and grabbbing a couple of first-downs in the process. He hit every receiver and showed a mobility that Jim Sorgi sadly lacks. Compare their two possessions against the same Bears defense and you have to wonder why the Colts keep trying to force Sorgi into the second-string role with an industrial-sized shoehorn. Supposed fourth-stringer Arth certainly didn't struggle to move the ball up the field like Sorgi did.

The Colts head to Denver next week desperately in need of a win -- not because their regular season is doomed otherwise, but simply because it's time to get a taste of victory to set the table for the season and begin to build a little momentum. The starters will play extensively in that nationally-televised game, so it will be interesting to see how prepared they will be when the first team is given the chance to have a bit more consistency and establish a rhythm.

And in the Colts final preseason game against the Bengals, when the backups will play most of the evening again, let's hope the Colts get smart enough to give Tom Arth more than 1:23 to show that he can give Jim Sorgi and Travis Brown some competition -- and even has some skills that they lack.

Game Notes

Rookie kicker Dave Rayner got off to a rough start with a kick to the Bears' 12, but then put his next three inside the 5 (1,4,3)....Ben Utecht was the long-snapper on Vanderjagt 45-yard field goal, while Justin Snow was the snapper on his 50-yard miss....When linebacker Chris Laskowski got a chance to play later in the game, his name got called frequently, getting credit for three tackles...The Colts defense finished the night with 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and two interceptions. That's a good night's work in those categories....Colts running backs gained just 24 yards for the night versus 152 by the Bears...Jim Sorgi finished the night 12-16 on the night but has yet to throw a TD pass in the preseason despite extensive playing time....Hunter Smith had an excellent night, punting 9 times for 46.3 average, placing 4 punts inside the Bears' 20....The Colts gave Jerome Dennis an opportunity as a kickoff returns specialist, and he responded by posting the best average of all returners (Colts and Bears) on his two returns with 24.5 yards.

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