After a win over the Titans in Week 13, the Colts entered the game with an 8-4 record and a chance to clinch the AFC South.
To win the division themselves, they needed to beat the 8-4 Cincinnati Bengals. The match-up wasn’t pretty for the Colts on either side of the ball. The result wasn’t any better.
After the jump, we grade the performance of the Colts’ offense, defense and special teams and pick the offensive and defensive player of the game.
At this point, the only things people expect from the Colts at the start of every game are slow starts. Their first drive ended in a three & out.
Their next three drives ended in punts too including another three & out.
After those punts, the Colts finally managed to produce a decent drive. Trent Richardson started it with an eight-yard run, followed by another for two yards. After a 22-yard catch by Richardson, the Colts were at the Bengals’ 29 but their drive ended in just a FG attempt.
Right before the half the Colts had to punt once again.
Down by 21 on their first series of the second half, the Colts’ offense suddenly woke up. On third down from his own 31, Luck threw a short pass to Da’Rick Rogers. The rookie WR broke two tackles right after the catch and made it a 69-yard TD reception to make it 21-7.
Their next drive was just as good. They started at the Bengals’ 48. Luck started the drive with a 29-yard carry. A couple plays later, Luck threw a short pass to LaVon Brazill who broke at least four tackles to make it a 19-yard TD catch. WR. 21-14.
Sadly, the Colts’ weren’t able to get any closer to the Bengals for the rest of the game.
Down 35-14, the offense still managed to get another scoring drive. It took him 48 minutes, but Hilton finally made his first catch of the game. The drive ended in a TD after a perfect 29-yard throw by Luck to Brazill (his second of the day). 35-21.
The offense got the ball back quickly but failed to do anything good with it. For some reason, Chuck Pagano decided to punt on fourth & six still down by 14. That call paid off big time (it didn’t).
The Colts got the ball back down by 21. Still, they marched down the field with a flurry of short passes to Richardson and Brown. The drive ended on a TD by Da’Rick Rogers after a two-yard throw by Luck. 42-28.
That was it for the offense.
Luck was pretty good…in the second half. The first two quarters were absolutely forgettable. They got to scoring position just once in the entire first half.
Luck was the team’s leading rusher in this game. He finished with 32 yards on two carries. Richardson and Brown combined for 31 yards on ten carries. Trent also gained 68 yards on five catches.
One of the few positives of the game was Da’Rick Rogers. A lot of fans have been begging the team to give him a chance for quite some time now. This was his second game and he finished with two scores and 107 yards receiving. Brazill also had a nice game with two touchdowns.
Pagano’s decision to punt down by 14 in the fourth quarter was simply ridiculous.
Not a miserable game by the offense but they started scoring when the game was already 21-0. They need to do it a lot faster than that. The Colts defense won’t hold for long. About the slow starts, the Colts now have been outscored 49-9 in the first quarter in the last six games.
Luckily, the Colts clinched the division after the Titans’ loss to the Broncos.
Offensive player of the game: Andrew Luck
He finished with 29/46 for 326 yards in the air and four TDs. He caught fire in the second half and at one point made it a 21-14 game. He just needs to play a lot better early.
Special mention goes to Da’Rick Rogers who finished with two TDs and 107 yards receiving. Luck apparently has a new reliable option.
Cincinnati moved the ball easily in their first series. They converted twice on third down. The drive ended in a TD after Marvin Jones torched Vontae Davis to make it 7-0.
The Colts’ defense improved a bit. They forced a three & out and two other punts on the Bengals’ next three drives.
Then, it all fell apart. The Bengals started their next drive at their own 34. They soon found themselves facing a first & goal. On fourth & goal from the 1, the Bengals tried to get the TD on the ground with Benjarvus Green-Ellis. After a clear tackle by Josh Chapman, the RB’s knee hit the turf right before he could get into the end zone. The refs’ initial call was that he was short of the TD. Right call. Jeff Triplette reviewed the play and reversed it to give the Bengals a 14-0 lead, saying the RB wasn’t down by contact before he entered the end zone.
On their first series of the second half, the Bengals had no problem getting to the Colts’ 1 again. Cincinnati faced third down just once in the entire drive. A couple of penalties by Mathis and Butler didn’t help. Green-Ellis scored his second TD of the game on a 1-yd run. 21-0.
Instead of making a big stop with the score 21-14, the Colts’ defense completely crumbled. Two things had disappeared at this point: effort and discipline. Colts were penalized twice on the drive: Davis for PI and Landry for unnecessary roughness. Landry’s penalty gave the Bengals another first & goal. Dalton found a wide-open Gresham in the end zone to extend the Bengals’ lead to 14 points.
On second & seven of the next series, Kelvin Sheppard and Antoine Bethea tackled Marvin Jones for a loss of five yards. That play was negated after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Sheppard. Dalton scored his third TD of the game with a nine-yard throw to AJ Green. 35-14.
The Bengals started their final drive at the Colts’ 30 after a 42-yard punt return. Cincinnati didn’t have to try very hard to get their sixth and final TD of the game on a nine-yard carry by Dalton. 42-21.
Where to begin with the defense?
Let’s start with Jeff Triplette’s dumb call. First of all, Chapman’s contact with Green-Ellis’ left foot is very clear. Triplette took forever to review the play but didn’t see anything. After the game, he explained why he didn’t see Chapman’s contact. Apparently, the ref only looked for contact near the goal line. He was asked about five times about it and repeated over and over that he only looked for contact near the goal line. How did he not try to see what caused Green-Ellis’ fall? It was THAT stupid. Inexcusable. Instead of going 7-0 to the half, you go down by two TDs.
Still, the defense looked completely broke in the second half. Their effort was non-existent. Instead, they forgot about something called discipline. They were flagged six times in the second half, including stupid penalties like Sheppard’s taunting down by 14.
The Colts’ secondary was atrocious tonight and players like Greg Toler won’t change that.
Their struggles to create turnovers continue. Again, they couldn’t do anything. No fumbles, no interceptions and not even sacks. Mathis finished without a single tackle.
Defensive player of the game: Antoine Bethea
Bethea finished the game with ten tackles and seven assists. He was the team’s leading tackler and in a miserable day for the defense, this was enough to earn this recognition.
Not a great day for the special teams.
Down by seven, Pat McAfee kicked a great punt downed by Sergio Brown at the Bengals’ 1.
That wouldn’t be Brown’s only great play. Still down 7-0, McAfee’s punt bounced just outside the end zone. Brown prevented it from turning into a touchback and the Colts recovered at the 4.
On a punt return, Chris Rainey muffed the ball but luckily recovered it. Rainey wasn’t even close to catching that punt to begin with. He just extended his hands, touched it and still struggled to recover it.
Down 35-21 and with less than eight minutes to go, Chuck Pagano decided to punt. The decision to punt was quite bad already but it got a lot worse after Tate returned that punt 42 yards.
Vinatieri missed his only FG attempt of the day. It was a 44-yard attempt and he couldn’t make it.
As good as Sergio Brown was, the STs still allowed a couple of nice returns and Vinatieri’s missed FG didn’t help at all.