INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears’ defense was winning. It was all over Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, sacking and harassing him. It had stopped the run.
But then second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller got burned.
And then penalized.
Colts speedster T.Y. Hilton beat Fuller for a 45-yard gain early in the second quarter to highlight the Colts’ lone touchdown drive in the Bears’ 23-11 exhibition victory Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Fuller, the Bears’ 2014 first-round pick, was penalized for taunting Hilton after the long catch, which moved the Colts down to the Bears’ 14-yard line.
“I was just making a play once he caught it,” Fuller said. “As he was getting up, I was just holding him as if he was continuing to run, and he reacted in a way that made it look like a penalty.”
Still, it turned out to be a significant blemish on an otherwise strong night for the starting defense.
It’s too early to sound the alarms on Fuller, who has had his up-and-down moments during camp. But the defense continues to make significant strides in its transition to a 3-4 hybrid scheme under coordinator Vic Fangio, and the Bears are expecting Fuller to be an invaluable piece of what they’re building.
“They got a big play that they shouldn’t have gotten,” said Fuller, who also missed a tackle on receiver Phillip Dorsett in the second quarter. “I could have done a lot better.”
But the best news for the Bears is that the defense was better overall as a group. From its coverage to the rush to the linebackers’ tackling, the starters had a good night against the Colts.
The Bears made plenty of plays to feel good about after practicing against and raving about Luck, who scored on a five-yard run three plays after Fuller’s penalty.
In the first quarter against the Bears’ starters, Luck was 1-for-4 for eight yards. The Bears had 17 offensive plays for 75 yards to the Colts’ eight for 14 in the first quarter.
It was much different than the 14-play, 85-yard drive the Dolphins opened with last week in the preseason opener.
“I thought we improved,” coach John Fox said. “I obviously didn’t like where we started a week ago.”
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee led the charge, sacking and flushing Luck from the pocket on consecutive plays during the Colts’ first drive.
“We all had that in mind, that last week wasn’t good enough,” McPhee said. “We needed to make a statement for ourselves. We all did.”
Rushing from a three-point stance, Jared Allen nearly sacked Luck on one throw, and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins later brought him down on another.
“In the series we were in, we had a lot of disruptions,” Allen said.
It’s only the preseason, but the Bears are in the middle of a unique scheme change, and they never looked overmatched against the Colts, one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The Bears were able to build on their two joint practices at the Colts’ practice facility. They thought they got better and proved it early on against the Colts.
“We just have to keep stacking them chips and stack them one game at a time and one practice at a time,” McPhee said. “Right now, we’re still trying to build our defense, that dog attitude. It’s just a process.”
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