INDIANAPOLIS –The Bears showed marked improvement in several key areas in Thursday night's 23-11 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Facing a team that won the AFC South with an 11-5 record and advanced to the AFC title game last year, Bears starters produced impact plays on offense, defense and special teams.
Jay Cutler led the Bears to three field goals on four possessions by completing 8 of 9 passes for 69 yards. Pernell McPhee recorded an early sack for a defense that held the Colts to 14 yards on eight plays in the first quarter. And the special teams gave the Bears a decisive edge in field position.
"I thought we made progress tonight in really all phases, but by no means have we arrived," said coach John Fox. "If we can keep that mindset, I think we'll continue to improve."
The Bears defense started strong Thursday night, forcing the Colts to go three-and-out on their opening possession. McPhee sacked quarterback Andrew Luck on second down and then pressured Luck into a third-down incompletion.
Marc Mariani spun away from a tackler along the sideline on a nifty 29-yard punt return, setting up Robbie Gould's 50-yard field goal, which gave the Bears a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
After defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and outside linebacker Jared Allen pressured Luck into incompletions on the Colts' next drive, Gould's 38-yard field goal widened the margin to 6-0.
The Bears settled for the field goal after Cutler's 12-yard run to the 1 on third-and-goal was nullified by a holding penalty against right guard Kyle Long. Earlier in the quarter, Cutler's 42-yard completion to Joshua Bellamy was wiped out by a hands-to-the-face penalty on right tackle Charles Leno Jr. Jr.
Luck followed by scrambling for a 5-yard touchdown and connecting with receiver Andre Johnson on a two-point conversion pass, giving the Colts an 8-6 lead early in the second quarter. The TD capped a 9-play, 89-yard drive that was highlighted by T.Y. Hilton's 45-yard catch. Hilton beat cornerback Kyle Fuller, who also drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the Colts receiver after the play.
Gould answered with his third field goal of the game without a miss, giving the Bears a 9-8 lead with a 25-yarder. The kick was set up by Cutler's 20-yard pass to tight end Martellus Bennett.
After starters were removed midway through the second quarter, Bears cornerback Terrance Mitchell soared over receiver Donte Moncrief to intercept a Matt Hasselbeck jump-ball pass at the Chicago 22.
But the Bears gave the ball right back as backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen's underthrown pass intended for tight end Dante Rosario was intercepted by cornerback Sheldon Price, who returned it 19 yards to the Chicago 14 with 1:53 remaining in the half.
The Colts converted the takeaway into Adam Vinatieri's 25-yard field goal on the final play of the half, giving Indianapolis an 11-9 lead.
Luck played three series, connecting on 5 of 9 passes for 71 yards with no TDs or interceptions, one sack and an 81.2 passer rating.
The Bears took a 16-11 lead on Clausen's 12-yard touchdown pass to Bellamy midway through the third quarter. Running an out route, Bellamy caught the ball at the 8, turned up the sideline and dove into the end zone. The TD was set up by rookie Jeremy Langford's 46-yard run.
Outside linebacker Sam Acho later sacked Hasselbeck, forcing a fumble that nose tackle Eddie Goldman recovered at the Indianapolis 32.
The Bears turned the takeaway into a 23-11 lead on Langford's impressive 2-yard TD run. The fourth-round pick from Michigan State ran to the left, reversed field to the right and drove safety Clayton Geathers into the end zone.
"That's something I've got to do when I go in is get the ball in," Langford said. "If they give me a chance, I have to give my best effort to get it in. It felt good to score."
After outscoring the Dolphins 24-0 in the second half of their preseason-opening win Aug. 13, the Bears outscored the Colts 14-0 Saturday night to improve to 2-0.