INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Ehlinger directed two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and Jake Funk’s late 4-yard TD run gave the Indianapolis Colts a 24-17 comeback victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday night.
Neither of the two feature attractions — Bears quarterback Justin Fields or Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson — played. The two coaches — Chicago’s Matt Eberflus and Indianapolis’ Shane Steichen — also opted against using most key players after the teams held two joint practices this week.
But Gardner Minshew and Ehlinger, the Colts’ backup quarterbacks, and quarterback Tyson Bagent, Chicago’s undrafted rookie, all played well. Both teams are 1-1.
Four days after Steichen named Richardson, the No. 4 overall draft pick, Indy’s opening-day starter, Minshew responded by going 13 of 15 with 107 yards and a nifty 4-yard touchdown pass to Juwann Winfree for the game’s first score.
Ehlinger was 9 of 14 with 124 yards and led the team with 60 yards rushing on eight carries, including a 5-yard scoring run that cut the deficit to 17-13 midway through the fourth quarter. And while he couldn’t convert a 2-point conversion pass, he did set up Funk’s go-ahead score with a 42-yard completion to James Washington.
Bagent was equally impressive after replacing Bears backup PJ Walker in the second quarter. He took the Bears on a 17-play, 92-yard drive and tied it at 7 with a 2-yard dive into the end zone. Bagent finished 9 of 10 with 76 yards.
Chicago looked as if it might pull away after Cairo Santos broke the tie with a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter and Nathan Peterman hooked up with former Colts draft pick Daurice Fountain on a 35-yard TD pass to take a 17-7 lead with 13:47 left in the game.
But Ehlinger had other plans. Kicker Matt Gay completed the scoring with a 35-yard field goal following a late Bears turnover.
Peterman drove Chicago to Indy’s 24-yard line in the final minute but was sacked on the game’s final play.
Colts running back Jonathan Taylor remains on the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery and is still mired in a contract dispute that includes a trade request.
While team owner Jim Irsay has said he will not trade the 2021 NFL rushing champ, he tried to smooth over the spat during the team’s game-day telecast.
“I respect any time people are, they’re trying to fight for their position, for their families and all those things,” he said. “We’re really excited to support him and embrace him because he’s a great young man. I know (general manager) Chris Ballard is going to work hard to try to get the waters as calm as he can.”
FOUNTAIN OF JOY
Fountain finished a team-high four receptions for 59 yards, a promising sign as he tries to return from a dislocated and fractured ankle that derailed his career in 2019. The injury occurred during a joint practice against the Cleveland Browns.
In 2020, Fountain was on the Colts active roster and practice squad but caught only two passes for 23 yards. He then signed with Kansas City Chiefs in 2021 before joining the Bears last October.
It’s a 2-hour, 45-minute drive from Lucas Oil Stadium to Soldier Field, but Saturday’s matchup was only the sixth preseason meeting between the franchises since 2000.
While most preseason games remain staggeringly forgettable, the impact of their last one remains glaring. On that night, Aug. 24, 2019, during the second half, word leaked that Andrew Luck was retiring. He was booed as he left the field. The Colts called an impromptu postgame news conference to announce the decision.
Indy’s three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille sat out Thursday’s practice and did not dress for Saturday’s game. Indy also lost linebacker Jo Jo Domann (calf) during the game. Bears cornerback Jaylon Jones walked off the field midway through the fourth quarter which what appeared to be a left leg injury.
Bears: Host Buffalo next Saturday in the preseason finale for both teams.
Colts: Head to Philadelphia for another joint practice before closing out the preseason against the Eagles on Thursday.