INDIANAPOLIS – There are times when it’s fine just being along for the ride.
OK, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but that’s one reasonable takeaway regarding the offense in the aftermath of the Indianapolis Colts’ 19-11 win over the Chicago Bears Sunday in Soldier Field.
It did enough. No more.
“D’s playing unbelievable,’’ quarterback Philip Rivers said in a Zoom conference call. “That lends to a little bit of maybe when we get in that fourth quarter of we’re not going to go start saying, ‘Let’s throw it five times in a row.’
“There was no reason to do that with the way the game was going. Again, we did enough and did what we had to do to win, but certainly some things to clean up.’’
The offense finished with a season-low 289 total yards and the running game didn’t start to show consistent life until the fourth quarter. It finished with 103 yards on 38 carries, just 2.7 per attempt. Take away Rivers’ three knees to end the game, and it still averaged an unsatisfactory 3.0.
The Colts entered the day ranked 32nd in converting third downs (30.3%), and bumped that to 42% (8-for-19). But after a game-opening touchdown drive – Rivers’ capped it with a 13-yard toss to tight end Mo Alie-Cox – they settled for Rodrigo Blankenship field goals on three subsequent red-zone trips.
“Just one of those days,’’ Frank Reich said.
Rivers passed for 190 yards and the TD to Alie-Cox, but was uncharacteristically off. He was just 16-of-29 after entering the game as the NFL’s most accurate passer (78.3%).
“A couple of missed throws I wish I had back,’’ Rivers said. “I kind of felt like it was going to be a little bit of a grinder coming into this week. I didn’t think it was going to be just smooth sailing.
“We didn’t do the dumb things. We didn’t turn the ball over three times. We didn’t do a lot of those things. So I think that’s key. Certainly some things we need to do better.’’
All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard exited the game in the second quarter with a groin injury and did not return. Reich said the team will evaluate him as the week unfolds.
Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who returned after missing two games with a non-football-related stomach issue, had to be helped off in the closing minutes. There was no immediate update on the injury or its severity.
Big game for Blackmon
Julian Blackmon was a full-time practice participant for the first time this week. The rookie safety has been in rehab mode after undergoing knee surgery in December.
It’s clear Blackmon has found his comfort zone.
He started his second straight game against the Bears and finished with an impactful bottom line: his first career interception, three defended passes and one solo tackle.
“You feel the confidence from him,’’ Reich said. “He’s making plays. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of conviction right now and I just think that it will keep getting better.’’
“I love playing for this defense,’’ said Blackmon. “Honestly, I just love playing football. I just love being able to make plays, especially for this team. My teammates, they’re always telling me, ‘Hey, you can do this. We need you.’
“Kenny Moore pulled me aside at halftime and told me that and it kind of woke me up a little bit and made me want to make plays.’’
This and that
Rigoberto Sanchez had five punts after attempting six in the first three games. Twice he pinned the Bears inside the 10-yard line, at the 7 and 5. On his 11 punts this season, six have been downed inside the 20. . . . Sanchez’s kickoffs neutralized Bears’ return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson. He was limited to a 21.7 average on three returns. . . . Rivers’ 16 completions were divvied up among nine different receivers. Zach Pascal was one of three Colts with three catches for a team-high 58 yards. . . . Tight end Trey Burton made his first appearance as a Colt after missing the first three games with a calf injury. He finished with two catches for 16 yards on five targets. Burton also sealed the victory by covering the Bears’ last-gasp onside kick.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.