INDIANAPOLIS – Quarterback Brian Hoyer helped the Bears rally to erase a fourth-quarter deficit Sunday in Indianapolis, but his Colts counterpart answered with a comeback of his own.
After Hoyer engineered a 96-yard drive capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Howard that gave the Bears a 23-19 lead with 7:04 remaining, Andrew Luck hit T.Y. Hilton with a 35-yard scoring strike to put the Colts back on top 26-23 en route to a 29-23 victory.
Indianapolis tacked on its final points on Adam Vinatieri's fifth field goal of the game without a miss, a 46-yarder with 3:43 to play, after recovering a Cameron Meredith fumble.
Down by six points, the Bears reached the Colts' 25 with 1:52 remaining. But right tackle Bobby Massie drew a holding penalty on third-and-five and Hoyer eventually threw incomplete over the middle on fourth-and-eight, turning the ball over on downs with :57 to play.
View photos from the game as the Bears take on the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"Our guys in there were battling," said coach John Fox. "We've got a lot of strong character guys who continue to compete. Obviously, it's frustrating. It's a hard pill to swallow anytime you lose a game and put all that effort into it. It was a hard-fought game and we just came up a little short."
Making his third straight start in place of the injured Jay Cutler, Hoyer became the second quarterback in Bears history to pass for 300 yards in three straight games-joining Josh McCown-and the first to do it without throwing an interception.
Hoyer completed 33 of 43 passes for a career-high 397 yards with two TDs and a 120.0 passer rating, the identical rating he posted last Sunday in a win over the Lions. The 397 yards were the fifth most in Bears history and the most since Jim Miller's 422 yards on Nov. 14, 1999.
Hoyer, who was not sacked, wasn't the only member of the offense who performed well in place of an injured starter. Replacing running back Jeremy Langford and receiver Kevin White, respectively, Howard rushed for 118 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 45 yards including the go-ahead touchdown, and Meredith had nine receptions for 130 yards and one TD.
As a team, the Bears amassed 522 total yards, their most since Sept. 24, 1989 when they had 542 in a win over the Lions. The 522 yards are the most they've had in a loss since at least 1940.
After allowing three field goals and a touchdown on four Colts possessions in the first half, the Bears defense tightened up, pressuring Luck and producing three-and-outs on three of Indianapolis' first four drives of the second half.
Without injured outside linebackers Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd, Willie Young picked up the slack by registering three of the Bears' five sacks in the game.
Luck completed 28 of 39 passes for 322 yards with two TDs, no interceptions and a 113.4 rating. Hilton caught 10 passes for 171 yards. On his go-ahead TD on a post pattern late in the game, Hilton beat cornerback Jacoby Glenn, who had entered the contest in the second half after Bryce Callahan exited with a hamstring injury.
"I think they drained out the safety with an out route and left the corner singled up and the quarterback made a great throw," Fox said.
The Bears had trailed 19-13 opening the fourth quarter before Connor Barth's 24-yard field goal cut the margin to 19-16 with 13:31 to play.
After Young's third-down sack forced a Colts punt, the Bears took over at their own 4. Hoyer proceeded to complete 6 of 6 passes for 74 yards in marching his team to a go-ahead TD, which came when he dumped off a short pass over the middle to Howard, who raced into the end zone.
Unfortunately, that didn't prevent the Bears from falling to 1-4, their worst five-game start since they also opened 1-4 in 2004 in Lovie Smith's first season as coach.
"We've got to finish," said right guard Kyle Long. "We battled, there's no doubt about it. Anybody that watched this game, was a part of this game, knows we battled-but sometimes that's not enough. You've got to finish, and you've got to finish at an elite effort."