CHICAGO — Frank Reich had a special feeling about his defense from the very first day of training camp.
And now with the first quarter of the season in the books, that unit is certainly proving him right — and then some.
The Colts' defense put together its third straight dominating performance on Sunday, as the Chicago Bears struggled to move the ball with any sort of consistency in Indy's 19-11 Week 4 road victory at Soldier Field.
The Colts (3-1), who were able to knock off the previously undefeated Bears (3-1), are now winners of three straight.
"Great team win," Reich told reporters after the game. "That's what we just talked about in there (the locker room): coming on the road, coming up here to Soldier Field against an undefeated team and in their place, we wanted to come in here and play good in all three phases and felt like this was — we didn't play perfect, but we played good."
The Colts entered Sunday's game with the league's No. 1-ranked defense, and for a third straight week they certainly played like it. While Nick Foles was making his first start as the Bears' quarterback on Sunday, Indy defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, per usual, wanted to make sure to neutralize Chicago's rushing attack first and foremost, which would allow the back end to do its thing against the pass.
The Colts executed that plan to near perfection on Sunday, as the Bears were held to just 28 total rushing yards on 16 carries (1.8 avg.), the fewest rushing yards allowed by an Indy defense since Sept. 27, 2009, against the Arizona Cardinals (24); it's only the 10th time in franchise history that the Colts have held an opponent to 28 rushing yards or less.
Ironically, Sunday's game was the second time the Colts' defense has allowed fewer than 30 rushing yards since Eberflus took over as Indy's defensive coordinator in 2018; the other such instance was Week 11 last season, when the Colts allowed just 29 rushing yards in a home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose starting quarterback that day was Foles.
Other than the run defense, perhaps the most remarkable part of Sunday's game was a general lack of splash plays on the defensive side of the ball, as the Colts — who were without All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (groin) for the entire second half — would log just one sack and one interception each of Foles.
"Yeah, I mean, that's just the flavor of the game," Reich said. "Nick Foles did a good job of getting rid of the ball at times and then not turning it over a whole bunch. So that's why, as you said, the tempo and the flavor of this game was a little bit different, and so you got to play that chess match. The defense was holding them down.
"Besides the one play that I talked about, the one go-ball they hit and then the one they hit late, besides that I thought our defense did a good job of containing them, containing their pass game," Reich continued. "But really the key for us was stopping their run. Stopping their run. That, because they got a good play action game, and so to be able to stop the run and kind of nullify the play action was a big help for us."
The Colts' defensive performance, coupled with a strong all-around outing by the Indy special teams units, which blocked a punt and hit all four field goal attempts on the day, helped pick up the pace for a Colts offense that had its own struggles moving the ball with any consistency.
While Indy was better on third down in Sunday's game (42 percent conversion rate), the team was able to get into the end zone just once in four total trips to the red zone, and couldn't get six points on both goal-to-goal situations it encountered.
Quarterback Philip Rivers completed 16-of-29 passes for 190 yards with one touchdown to no interceptions, while running back Jonathan Taylor led the way on the ground with 17 rushing attempts for 68 yards. Zach Pascal paced the Colts with three receptions for 58 yards, while tight end Mo Alie-Cox' lone catch on the day was a 13-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
"Offensively, we did some things," Reich said. "We ran the ball OK at times. We were close on a couple others. Third down we were a little bit better. Obviously struggled in the red zone but it was just one of those days. It was just one of those days. Really a credit to Chicago's defense. Chuck (Pagano) is a great coordinator. They got great personnel. They did a good job. But we made some plays, just missed on a couple, but were close and made the plays that we had to to win the game."
But the story of the season so far for the Colts is the defense, which once again came to play on Sunday to wrap up the first quarter of the season with three straight victories.
The second quarter of the season will present the Indy defense with its toughest task yet, however, as the Colts next Sunday travel to take on the Cleveland Browns (3-1), who have scored 35, 34 and 49 points the last three weeks, respectively — all wins.
"I've been so fired up about our defense from Day 1 — the way we looked in camp," Reich said. "I look at our personnel, I look at our coaches and I look at our schemes on defense — I think they fit our players. I felt good about our defense from Day 1 I felt like it was going to be really good. So it's early — I mean, they're playing great — it's four games into it, and the defense is playing really, really good football right now, but we got to keep the pressure on. Obviously, we play an explosive offense next week, so that will be a good test for us."