INDIANAPOLIS — With 57 seconds left, the Bears offense was finally stopped.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-8 and the Bears trailing by six, and the Bears lost, 29-23, Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
To take the lead, quarterback Andrew Luck marched the Colts 82 yards on six plays, finishing the drive with a 35-yard pass over the middle to T.Y. Hilton.
The Bears had scored less than three-and-a-half minutes earlier, when rookie Jordan Howard caught a pass over the middle and ran for a 21-yard touchdown. The rookie paced an offense Hoyer steered, again, with few mistakes. Starting his third-straight game for Jay Cutler (thumb), Hoyer completed 33 of 43 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns.
Given a chance to reply after Hilton’s catch, second-year receiver Cam Meredith, who started for the injured Kevin White and played well, fumbled after catching a 12-yard pass, giving the Colts the ball at the Bears 30 with 3:29 to play.
The Colts managed only an Adam Vinatieri field goal, though, to go up six with 2:28 to play.
A Bears pass rush left short-handed by Leonard Floyd — whose calf injury placed him on the inactive list — struggled to sniff Luck, who before Sunday led the NFL by being sacked 16 times, in the first half.
Though they were unable to force a first-half punt, the Bears did mitigate damage, forcing three Adam Vinatieri field goals — of 54, 53 and 26 yards.
The Colts’ first touchdown came at the end of what could have been a goal-line stand. The Colts faced first-and-goal from the 5, but the Bears forced a three-yard pass, an incompletion and a 1-yard run. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Luck play-faked out of a tight I-formation and found Dwayne Allen wide open for a touchdown.
On offense, the Bears were betrayed by their own penalties. On their first possession, Howard was whistled for a facemask penalty while blocking on a screen that would have given the Bears the ball at the 1. In the second quarter, Kyle Long was flagged for holding on a completion that would have given the Bears first down at the Colts’ 17. In both cases, Connor Barth kicked field goals.
With 3:35 left in the half, Meredith scored his first career touchdown on a double move, catching a 14-yard pass from Hoyer.
The Colts parried with a field goal before halftime — but not before Luck was sacked on third-and-goal from the one — to go ahead 16-13.
Vinatieri added his fourth field goal about halfway through the third quarter on a drive extended by two third-down conversions: one on cornerback Bryce Callahan’s illegal contact flag and the other on a 19-yard pass to Chester Rodgers with Callahan trailing.
On the next drive, Connor Barth missed a 54-yard kick — only to be shoved down by T.J. Green. Given another chance, he missed the 49-yarder.
The Bears gave him a shorter attempt — a 24-yarder that he made — after fizzling after facing first-and-10 at the Colts’ 11.