INDIANAPOLIS - Two promising young skill-position players provided at least two bright spots for the Bears in Sunday's 29-23 loss to the Colts in Indianapolis.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard rushed for 118 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 45 yards and one touchdown, while second-year receiver Cameron Meredith had nine receptions for 130 yards and one TD.
Not bad for two players who were third on the depth chart at their respective positions when the regular season began.
"Those guys are playing well," said quarterback Brian Hoyer, who passed for 397 yards in Sunday's loss. "They're getting their opportunities and they're taking advantage of them. Those are two guys who it's exciting to watch them play. Now we've just got to take that next step and win these games."
Howard has now topped 100 yards in each of his first two NFL starts while replacing the injured Jeremy Langford, having gained 111 yards last Sunday in a win over the Lions.
"[Howard] is a good young player," said coach John Fox. "He is big and physical. He has good vision. He has a bright future."
The Bears trailed 13-6 late in the first half when Howard's 57-yard run to the Colts' 18 set up Meredith's 14-yard TD reception from Hoyer that tied the game 13-13. Meredith, who was starting in place of the injured Kevin White, made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone, snatching the ball away from a defender for his first NFL TD.
Meredith lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter, but caught a 13-yard pass from Hoyer on the next play.
"I came right up to him and I said, 'Look, you're going to get another chance,' and sure enough the next drive the first play goes to him," Hoyer said. "That's football. The physical stuff like that is going to happen. You just try to build him up. You don't want him to go in a tank and I don't think he did."
Costly flags: The Bears repeatedly hurt themselves with penalties, drawing 10 flags for 80 yards. Howard's facemask penalty on the game's opening drive nullified Meredith's 8-yard run to the Indianapolis 1, and the Bears eventually settled for a field goal.
Kyle Long's holding penalty in the second quarter wiped out Eddie Royal's four-yard catch on third-and-three and the Bears once again kicked a field goal.
Logan Paulsen's holding penalty late in the first half erased Howard's 4-yard touchdown run, though Hoyer hit Meredith with a 14-yard TD pass on the next play.
Bryce Callahan's illegal contact penalty on a third-down incompletion sustained a Colts drive in the third period that resulted in a field goal, widening the margin to 19-13.
And finally, Bobby Massie was called for holding on the Bears' final drive, turning a third-and-five at the Indianapolis 25 to third-and-15 at the 35. Hoyer completed a 7-yard pass to Royal and then threw incomplete on fourth-and-8.
"We've got to really try to take care of those, just stop trying to hurt ourselves," Hoyer said. "In football physical penalties are going to happen. You try to eliminate the mental ones and really just try not to shoot yourself in the foot."
Another miss: Bears kicker Connor Barth missed his third field goal attempt in the last four games Sunday, a 49-yarder that hooked just outside the left upright. It came immediately after he missed wide right from 54 yards but was given another chance when the Colts were penalized five yards for running into the kicker.
Barth made his other three tries from 35, 49 and 24 yards and is now 5-of-8 on the season.
News and notes: Eleven of the 12 Bears who were listed as questionable on the injury report played in Sunday's game, with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd the lone exception. … Wearing a cast on his surgically-repaired thumb, Danny Trevathan started at inside linebacker after missing the previous two games and recorded six tackles. … Willie Young's three sacks were a career high and the most by a Bears player since Jeremiah Ratliff had 3.5 sacks Oct. 19, 2014 against the Dolphins.