DISAPPOINTING DEBUT

The Colts opened the last three regular seasons with extended, historic winning streaks. On Sunday night, they fell behind early en route to a 29-13 loss to the Chicago Bears in the first regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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Colts Lose to Chicago Bears, 29-13, in 2008 Regular-Season Opener
INDIANAPOLIS – This was hardly how the Colts wanted to celebrate history.

And actually, it wasn't even close.

The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, played the Chicago Bears in a nationally-televised, historic game on Sunday night: the first regular-season game in state-of-the-art retractable-roof Lucas Oil Stadium.

The game was a sellout.

The stands were full.

The pre-game atmosphere was festive.

But the Colts, who had opened the last three regular seasons with extended, historic winning streaks en route to division titles, fell behind in the first half and after a brief second-half rally, couldn't catch the Bears in a 29-13 loss in front of 66,882 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"It's sickening is what it feels like," said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who played his first game after missing all five preseason games while recovering from pre-training camp knee surgery.

"It's a really a disappointing feeling to lose a game – first game new stadium, 15th game old stadium, it's really disappointing to lose. We've got to go to work."

The Colts the past five seasons have been one of the NFL's most consistent teams.

On Sunday night – against a team they beat, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI 19 months before – they were anything but, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said.

"We certainly hadn't had one like that in a long time," Dungy said. "We got just solidly outplayed. It's disappointing, but I have to give the Bears all the credit. They played well. They played hard. They did the things you have to do to win.

"They didn't do things that cause you to lose. They outplayed us for four quarters and the score was kind of indicative of that."

Manning, who underwent knee surgery to remove an infected bursa sac 10 days before the July 24 start of training camp, started and played the whole game, completing 30 of 49 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

"You can't play a football game non full-speed," Manning said. "I don't have a grade on myself or a percentage of what I am. Once you suit up and you're out there playing, you're full go. It's your job to go out and play. I tried to play within myself tonight and be smart with the football."

Said Dungy, "I thought he played OK. We didn't hit some that we normally hit, but all in all, we just didn't play well enough to win. . . . I would not want to tarnish the Bears' victory by saying, 'Peyton wasn't himself or didn't play in the preseason.'

"The Bears outplayed us and that was the difference tonight."

The Colts, who entered the game without three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday (knee) and rookie offensive guard Mike Pollak (knee) – the team's second-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft – rushed for 53 yards on 15 carries. Rookie Jamey Richard started at center for the Colts, with third-year veterans Dan Federkeil and Charlie Johnson making their first NFL starts at guard.

Colts tight end Dallas Clark, who caught two passes for 46 yards, left the game in the first half and did not return in the second half. Running back Joseph Addai left the game with a fourth-quarter head injury, and Dungy said he was cleared to return.

The Colts, who had lost only two previous September games in Dungy's six previous seasons as head coach, lost the season-opener for just the second time under Dungy. They last lost a season-opener in 2004, when they lost to the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., 27-24. The Colts won 12 of their next 14 games that season to clinch the second of their five consecutive AFC South titles.

The Colts in 2005 began the season with a franchise-best 13 consecutive victories to start the season, then began 2006 with a 9-0 record and last season with a 7-0 record.

"We've got a long season, but we've got to kick it into gear," Colts safety Bob Sanders said. "We've got to strap it back up and correct our mistakes.

Chicago outrushed the Colts, 183-53, and the Colts' defense – which finished second in the NFL in total defense and first in points allowed last season – allowed 319 total yards.

The Bears' 29 points were more than any Colts opponent scored last season.

"They just outplayed us today," Colts defensive tackle Raheem Brock said. "We missed a lot of tackles and missed some assignments. They just had a good game plan and executed it. Basically, I think we beat ourselves today.

"They did a good job of executing and we just didn't execute on our side."

The Colts drove 59 yards on 11 plays on their second possession, a drive that ended with a 39-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri with 5:52 remaining in the quarter.

The Bears then drove 54 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, with rookie running back Matt Forte breaking free for a 50-yard touchdown run with 4:59 remaining in the quarter.

The Colts trimmed the lead to 7-6 with kicker Adam Vinatieri's second field goal – a 34-yarder with 9:38 remaining in the second quarter.

Chicago pushed the lead to 10-6 with a 41-yard field goal by Robbie Gould, and after Bears Marcus Harrison sacked quarterback Peyton Manning for a 10-yard loss at the Indianapolis 2, Chicago defensive end Adewale Ogunleye tackled Colts running back Joseph Addai in the end zone for a safety.

That made it 12-6, Bears, with 3:59 remaining in the half.

The Bears took possession after a free punt by Hunter Smith, then drove 55 yards on the final possession of the half, with Gould's 25-yard field goal as time expired giving the Bears a nine-point halftime lead.

The Colts drove 52 yards on seven plays on their first drive of the second half, pulling to within two when Manning found wide receiver Reggie Wayne for a 6-yard touchdown pass.

The Colts regained possession with a chance to take the lead, but Bears linebacker Lance Briggs picked up a fumble by Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter.

Because Lucas Oil Stadium's retractable roof was open, it marked the first regular-season game played outdoors in the 25-year history of Indianapolis Colts football.

The Colts will play the Vikings in Minnesota next Sunday at 1 p.m.

"What we have to do is make sure we come back to work tomorrow and improve and have a lot better performance next week," Dungy said. "There's not a whole lot we can do about this week. It's disappointing to us and we have to rebound.

"I think they came out and played better and harder than we did. We've just got to come out and prepare little bit better and work on it. They outplayed us. Usually, the team that does the little things the best and plays hard comes out on top.

"We had a couple of balls in our hands we couldn't catch. We had a ball on the ground that we stripped out and didn't get it. They had a ball that they stripped out and they returned it for a touchdown.

"I usually attribute that to the team that plays better making things happen."

Said Brock, "Everybody was excited to play in the stadium in our first regular-season game of the year, but it doesn't matter. We still have to go out and execute our assignments and play our game."

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