- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

MIAMI — For the last six months, the Chicago Bears’ collective buzzword has been “finish.” Finish drives. Finish plays. Finish games. Finish the season.

But one step away from their first Super Bowl championship in 21 years, the Bears’ strength was their undoing.

For only the fourth time in 19 games this season, the Bears couldn’t finish, falling to the Indianapolis Colts 29-17 last night at Dolphin Stadium.

The offense couldn’t stay on the field, converting only three of 10 third-down chances and running only 48 plays.

The defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing the Colts to convert eight third-down opportunities and run 81 plays.

“We had finished games all season long, and that’s what we wanted to do tonight,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “To not do it one last time is disappointing.”

The way Chicago started wasn’t a problem. Rookie Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards to give the Bears a 7-0 lead 14 seconds into the game. For the rest of the first half, though, Chicago kept escaping from precarious situations, forcing the Colts into field goals when they were in the red zone and doing nothing of consequence offensively except for a 57-yard touchdown drive.

Up eight points in the second quarter, the Bears were outscored 23-3 the rest of the way. The game was still within reach entering the fourth quarter — the Colts led 22-14 — until quarterback Rex Grossman threw an interception that was returned 56 yards by Kelvin Hayden.

Indianapolis’ 191 rushing yards were a season high for a Bears opponent.

“Their offensive linemen got out fast to our linebackers and were able to cut our defensive linemen,” Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. “The toughest part for us is that we didn’t tackle as well as we needed to. We had chances to wrap guys on third-and-4 or third-and-5 and allowed them to get the first down and we had chances to make tackles on first-and-10 and didn’t do it.”

Rivera said his defense “probably” got fatigued — only four times during the regular season had the Bears’ defense been on the field for more than 70 plays.

But, Rivera added, “I think frustrated is the better word.”

The Colts had eight drives that lasted six or more plays and won the time of possession by almost 17 minutes.

“They made some great plays, and we missed some key tackles,” defensive tackle Tank Johnson said. “The guys are disappointed because it’s tough and always emotional when you lose a game that you’ve come so far to play in.”

The Bears’ offense didn’t give the defense much help. Chicago managed only seven points off of three first-half takeaways. Entering the third quarter, the Bears were outgained 386-121.

“We knew with their offense that we were going to have to score some points,” coach Lovie Smith said.

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