The Indianapolis Colts got Andrew Luck on track by playing fast Sunday. Now they'll try to use the same strategy to save their season.
After hearing the clamor for changes all week, the Colts cranked up the pace, took their first halftime lead of the season and, yes, even managed to pull out a badly needed victory, 29-23 victory over the Chicago Bears.
"We needed to get off the snide and get a win," Luck said after throwing a 35-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton with 3:43 to play to retake the lead. "We needed to get that taste out of our mouth. We needed a win. Winning cures all in this league."
The Colts (2-3) had plenty of concerns all week.
So Indy threw a change-up at the Bears' defense and Luck took full advantage by taking shots down the field and putting points on the scoreboard early.
The result: Indy had its first halftime lead of the season, 16-13.
But after bogging down in the regular offense most of the second half, the Colts switched back after Chicago took a 23-19 lead midway through the fourth quarter. This time, Luck needed only six plays to go 82 yards - the last 35 coming on the TD pass to Hilton that made it 26-23.
Luck was 28 of 39 with 322 yards and two TDs despite being sacked five times. Hilton caught 10 passes for 171 yards.
Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer was solid in his third straight start and gave Chicago (1-4) a 23-19 lead with a 24-yard TD pass to Jordan Howard with 7:04 left in the game. The 94-yard drive was Chicago's longest in more than seven years. Hoyer finished 33 of 43 for 397 yards and two TDs.
But after a late Bears fumble led to Adam Vinatieri's fifth field goal, Hoyer couldn't convert on fourth-and-8 from Indy's 28-yard line.
"It is frustrating," Chicago coach John Fox said. "It is a hard pill to swallow anytime you lose a game."
PASSING THE TEST
When the Colts opted not to take their bye following last week's trip to London, NFL officials were eager to see how Indy performed on a regular week. The Colts easily passed the test, performing even better than they did last week. And instead of playing catch-up all day, the Colts only trailed twice - at 3-0 and 23-19. The win could prove the long road trip wouldn't necessarily create at a disadvantage if London hosted more games.
MOVING ON UP
Frank Gore continues climbing the NFL's career rushing list. On Sunday, the Colts' feature back passed Jim Brown for No. 9 overall with a 16-yard run late in the first quarter. Brown retired in 1965 with 12,312 yards, a league record that stood for nearly two decades. Gore had 14 carries for 75 yards Sunday, giving him 12,367. In five games, Gore has passed five Hall of Famers and Edgerrin James, the Colts' career rushing leader.
Howard has already established himself as a key component in the Bears' offense. The rookie ran 16 times for 118 yards and caught three passes for 45 yards and a score in his second straight start. Since Jeremy Langford, the starter went down with an ankle injury in Week 3, Howard has posted back-to-back 100-yard games.
THEY SAID IT
Bears: Hoyer talking about an uncovered Howard before Indy called timeout: "I was trying to get the ball snapped. They were messed up. But they called timeout before we could get set."
Colts: Luck on Gore's milestone: "You won't find a guy who loves football more than Frank Gore. He's a beautiful teammate, a great locker room guy. And to pass Jim Brown, that's great. My dad grew up in Cleveland and so he always used to talk about Jim Brown."
Bears: After entering the game without Cutler (thumb), Langford or outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (calf), the only significant injury appeared to be backup cornerback Bryce Callahan, who left in the second half with an injured hamstring.