This Sunday, the Colts will host the Bears for their home opener in the pre-season. The two teams are also having joint practices this week leading up to the game. In other words, they will be very familiar with each other by the time this weekend wraps up.
Historically, the Colts and Bears are very familiar with each other, having met in 42 regular season and postseason games, including in the Super Bowl. As you can imagine, a majority of those matchups took place when both the Colts and Bears played in NFL, before the merger.
In fact, 32 of the 42 meetings took place before the merger. When in Baltimore, the Colts were 21-13 against the Bears. Since moving to Indianapolis, the Colts are a meager 2-6 against Chicago.
Those two wins, as you could guess, came with Peyton Manning at QB. The first, in 2004, when Manning was on his way to breaking the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season (the first time). The second, obviously, was the Super Bowl victory.
In a regular season game, the Colts have never beaten the Bears in Indianapolis.
For this week's Throwback Thursday, it made me too sad to review the last time the Bears came to Indy for a regular season game. Instead, I'll look at the last time the Colts and Bears met in the regular season. Yes, it was also a loss, but it was a much more memorable game than just a loss.
The Colts began the 2012 season with a new GM, new coach, new quarterback, and let's face it, basically a completely new team. It was the year after the Manning-less Colts bombed to the worst record in the league, and the first overall pick.
Now, instead of Bill Polian, Jim Caldwell, and Manning (along with a slew of aging Pro Bowl players) it was Ryan Grigson, Chuck Pagano, and Andrew Luck (along with a slew of mid-range free agents...and Reggie Wayne).
Most experts expected the Colts to be at the bottom of the league again, potentially worse than they were the year before. They were opening the season in Chicago against a Bears team coming off of a season where they were 7-3, but went 1-5 down the stretch after Jay Cutler broke his finger against San Diego, causing the Bears to miss the playoffs.
I don't think I was alone in expecting the Colts to lose this game to the Bears. This was all about seeing Luck and the new look Colts in their first real game action.
The game got off to a rather dull start. The Bears got the ball first, putting Pagano's defense on the field. The unit forced a quick 3-and-out to get the ball to Luck for the first time. Luck and the offense proceeded to go 3-and-out as well, and punted back to the Bears.
Then something amazing happened. Cutler dropped back on first down and fired a pass that was intercepted by Josh Freeman who easily trotted in four yards for the score! The Colts were winning!! I admit, I was going crazy. The Colts were winning in Chicago. Super Bowl here they come!
It all went downhill from there.
The Bears proceeded to march down the field three straight times to open up a 17-7 lead over the Colts. Luck would respond by leading a scoring drive, capped off by Donald Brown to bring the Colts within a field goal.
That was the closest the Colts would get, as the Bears scored 17 unanswered points to extend the lead to 34-14 entering the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, the Colts opened up the scoring as Luck threw his first touchdown pass of his career on a short 4 yard play to Donnie Avery. Any thought of a miraculous comeback was put to rest when Cutler found Alshon Jeffery for a 42 yard score on the Bears next possession.
The Colts would lose the game 41-21, but the signs were there that this team could win a few games this year.
The one stat line I distinctly remember from the game was the comparison (the first of many during the season) between Manning and Luck's first game as a Colt.
Manning's line: 21-37 passing (56%), 302 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions
Luck's line: 23-45 passing (51%), 309 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions
Not exact, but pretty darn close.
If you're a numbers guy, those stats would have given you some confidence that Luck could be pretty decent moving forward. If you didn't care about stats and just watched the game, you had some confidence that Luck could be pretty decent moving forward.
This weekend we won't see Luck play the whole game, and we certainly won't see him toss three picks (I hope). And while it is a meaningless pre-season game, it'll be fun to again be reminded that Luck and the Colts could be pretty darn good this season.