INDIANAPOLIS – A reminder won’t be necessary, but nonetheless will be staring at the Indianapolis Colts from the opposing sideline Sunday at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Keep your foot on the pedal. Don’t ease up. It’s a 60-minute game.
Clichés? Of course.
Frank Reich insisted he hasn’t talked to his team about the Chicago Bears’ proclivity for dramatic fourth-quarter closing kicks, but added defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has mentioned it during meetings.
“They’ve been informed of that,’’ Reich said Friday on a Zoom conference call. “Flus and the guys have done a good job.’’
While a point of emphasis during the week considering the Bears have rallied from double-digit deficits in two of their first three games – 17- and 16-point trailers at Detroit and Atlanta, respectively – the Colts always take the approach it’s never over till it’s over.
“Our guys are pretty wired in that no matter the situation, our mindset’s always going to be the same,’’ Reich said. “It’s one play at a time, re-setting after every play, focus for each play, understanding the situation and never letting our guard down.’’
That includes on offense when the approach must be no lead’s safe. Ask the Lions and Falcons.
Detroit led 23-6 in the opener only to yield 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points and fall 27-21. After getting little accomplished in the first three quarters, Mitchell Trubisky delivered three touchdown passes in the final 13:39.
Last Sunday at Atlanta, the Falcons were on cruise control and Trubisky had been benched. They saw their 26-10 cushion with less than 7 minutes remaining go Poof! as backup QB Nick Foles tossed TD passes to Jimmy Graham, Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. The Bears again escaped, this time 30-26.
Unwilling to stick with Trubisky and his uneven performance, coach Matt Nagy has decided to put the Bears’ offense in Foles’ hands.
Consider the incredibly lopsided split in the Bears’ scoring: 33 points in the first three quarters, 41 in the fourth quarter. They’ve generated three TDs, punted 11 times and suffered three interceptions on 24 possessions in the first three quarters, but cleaned that up with six TDs on eight fourth-quarter possessions, excluding one kneel down.
For perspective, consider the Bears scored 55 points in the fourth quarter in 2019. All season.
“You see the urgency that they play with in the fourth quarter, but they play with that intensity throughout the game,’’ safety Khari Willis said. “The fourth quarter has kind of been where they’ve picked it up and kind of gotten over the hump and maybe dodged some bullets.
“More so than just the fourth quarter, I think we’ve gotta come out ready to play because (the Bears) will.’’
Reich is one of the NFL’s more aggressive coaches/play callers, and the presence of the resilient Bears won’t alter his approach.
“I can honestly tell you that for me, my foot is always down,’’ he said. “I might call the game differently on offense depending on the situation and depending on the feel, but it’s just engrained in my brain from a very young age – probably the way my dad was as a coach and ingrained it into me – that you never let your guard down, no matter what the score is, until that final whistle is blown.
“I sure hope that is engrained in this team that we never let our guard down no matter what.’’
T.J. Carrie ruled out
Two Colts have been ruled out of the game. Cornerback T.J. Carrie won’t play after suffering a hamstring injury in Thursday’s practice while rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr. still is recovering after undergoing a procedure late Sunday to address a compartment syndrome issue with his right leg.
Carrie’s absence will be lessened by the return of corner Rock Ya-Sin. He missed the last two games with a non-football-related stomach issue.
“He’s good to go,’’ Reich said.
Tight end Trey Burton (calf) and defensive tackle Sheldon Day (knee) remain on the injured reserve list, but are eligible to return for the Bears game. Day practiced all week while Burton was held out of Friday’s work after practicing the previous two days.
“(Burton) did pretty well the last couple of days,’’ Reich said. “Just thought physically for him it was the right thing to do to not be up today.’’
Burton should be eager to make his first appearance as a Colt against the team that released him during the offseason.
Considering the conservative approach the Colts take with players who’ve missed time with injuries or been in rehab mode, it would seem a longshot for Day, a Warren Central H.S. product, to be added to the active roster before the game. He had a knee procedure that forced him to miss all of training camp.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.