The Indianapolis Colts defense once again stands tall after another overwhelming performance in their latest victory over the Chicago Bears.
The Colts (3-1) had feasted on weaker opponents in recent weeks, putting up numbers that rivaled even the best stretches of their franchise’s history. But the Bears (3-1) posed the greatest challenge yet as they entered undefeated and were expecting a boost at quarterback after switching to Nick Foles last week.
"Defensively, obviously a great day,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said after Sunday’s 19-11 road win at Soldier Field. “Holding them down on offense in yards. Holding them down in points. Really the key stat there that we talked about all week was we've gotta stop the run.
“For us, that's a big part of our formula, a big part of our DNA. Credit to the defense for doing that. That was just a great team effort. Good job by 'Flus' and the staff, great job by the players. Then, you know, holding them down to points. They got the one late, but (that) was great.”
It was the third week in a row that the Colts held their opponent to 11 points or less, which is their first such stretch since late in the 2013 season. The 56 points that the Colts have allowed through the first four games are the fewest the team has allowed in the first four weeks of the season since 51 in 2013 as well.
They held Chicago to 269 total yards of offense, which is their fourth consecutive game to start the season where they have limited the opponent to fewer than 300 yards. The 241 passing yards by the Bears is the most given up by the Colts while the 28 rushing yards allowed is the fewest.
The Bears were an ugly 4-of-14 on third down (28.6%), including three three-and-outs, and were one-of-two in the red zone (50.0%).
Foles went 26-of-42 passing (61.9%) for 249 yards (5.9 avg.) with one touchdown, one interception (Julian Blackmon), and was sacked once (Justin Houston) for a passer rating 76.4. The sack for Houston marked the sixth consecutive game that he has had at least a half-sack.
When Foles entered the game for the Bears last week and faced a 16-point deficit, he was very aggressive in passing the ball downfield. That left some to wonder if that would be his same approach against a Colts defense that limits big downfield plays.
Foles remained aggressive trying to push the downfield, but it yielded very few positive results, save for a 33-yard connection with wide receiver Darnell Mooney down the left sideline in the second quarter.
On the ground, the Bears had their worst day since Week 7 of the 2019 season, as they carried the ball 16 times for 28 yards (1.8 avg.). They scored no rushing touchdowns, which keeps their tally at zero on the year. David Montgomery led the group with 10 rushes for 27 yards (2.7 avg.).
Chicago’s 28 rushing yards are the fewest that the Colts have allowed in a game since 2009, when they held the Arizona Cardinals to 24. It is also just the 10th time in franchise history that the Colts have held an opponent 28 yards or less on the ground.
Things looked even worse for the Chicago offense before they started making up some ground in the fourth quarter, which accounted for eight of their points and 106 of their yards.
One of the most impressive considerations of the Colts’ defensive performance is that they did it without All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, who missed the second half with a groin injury.
In Leonard’s absence, Zaire Franklin entered and Anthony Walker moved from his MIKE spot to Leonard’s WILL position. Walker and second-year linebacker Bobby Okereke stood out, flying around the field and combining for 19 tackles, including 15 solos and one for loss.
"Obviously you miss that loud voice next to you,” Walker said with a laugh about not having Leonard next to him. “We understand this is a game that we play that's a physical game. We're gonna have injuries and stuff like that, so to be able to have all 11 guys step up and play as one unit, we still have to keep doing our job, and we were able to do that today. Hopefully we get him back as soon as possible. That's all I kept saying in his ear, 'ASAP.' We need him. We understand that, but we were able to go out there and finish the game.”
Julian Blackmon, Rock Ya-Sin Stand Out in Secondary
Rookie safety Julian Blackmon continues to be a pleasant surprise after the biggest game of his young career, which included his first-career interception.
"You know, it's always fun playing football, especially coming off of injury,” Blackmon said. “I feel like there's a lot more work to be done. I wasn't always in the best spots that I could've been in, and I'm thankful to take one away because I should've had one earlier in the game, but I didn't go get it, so I'm glad that I got one back.”
Blackmon made just the second start of his career on Sunday after recovering from a torn ACL suffered last December. The third-round selection had one tackle and three pass breakups. His instincts and ability to break on the ball flashed as he met receivers on two occasions right as the ball arrived and dislodged the ball.
Another young Colts defensive back making plays was second-year cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, and he did it after missing the last two games with a non-football illness. Ya-Sin was rarely targeted in the passing game, but he made a big pass breakup on a 3rd-and-long midway through the first quarter. He also had one solo tackle.
Along with Ya-Sin, Colts cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore II showed physicality and tight coverage, not allowing Foles to throw into many wide-open windows.
Rhodes versus Pro Bowl receiver Allen Robinson II was one of the key matchups we highlighted this week, and Rhodes performed quite well.
"I don't want to sound crazy, but I did see this coming,” Reich said about how well the defense has played this season. “I've been so fired up about our defense from Day 1. The way we've looked in camp, I look at our personnel, I look at our coaches, and I look at our schemes on defense. I think that they fit our players. I've felt good about our defense from Day 1.
“(I) felt like it was gonna be really good. It’s early. They're playing great. It's four games into it, and the defense is playing really, really good football right now, but we've gotta keep the pressure on. Obviously, we play an explosive offense next week (at Cleveland Browns), so that'll be a good test for us.”
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(Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for nearly a decade and is a contributor for the team's official website, Colts.com. He’s on Twitter and Facebook @JakeArthurNFL, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)