This was possibly the most frustrating game yet. After being down 20-7 early in the fourth quarter, the Colts had the Bengals on their heels as they scored ten unanswered points, and had the ball with more than two minutes left in the game.
But the bad luck that has plagued the Colts all season reared its ugly head once again, as Pierre Garcon fumbled the ball and Carlos Dunlap returned it for a touchdown. And just like that, the game was over.
Never mind the fact that Pierre Garcon was down. But, I digress.
The Colts got the ball back, but while a Peyton Manning-led Colts team may be able to overcome a ten point deficit in two minutes, the 2011 offense had no chance. On the first play of the drive, Curtis Painter was intercepted as he tried to force a long pass to Austin Collie.
Overall, the play in this game was once again better than most expected. The Bengals struck first with an eleven-yard jump-ball touchdown pass to rookie WR A.J. Green. The Colts responded though with an 18-yard touchdown run by fan whipping boy Donald Brown. After a late field goal by the Bengals, the Colts went into halftime down 10-7.
After the half, the Colts once again came out flat, allowing 10 unanswered points in the third quarter. But the Colts started to bounce back as Adam Vinatieri hit a 52 yard field goal, making the score 10-20. After defensive stop, the Curtis Painter-led Colts went on a 10 play, 74-yard drive, capped by a beautiful one-handed catch by Dallas Clark for a one-yard touchdown. Once again, the Colts defense held, and the Colts again drove the ball down the field, but Adam Vinatieri's 52-yard field goal was blocked. After yet another defensive stop, the Colts' ensuing drive was halted before it even got started by the Garcon fumble.
For the record, I don't believe for one second that Garcon was trying to lateral the ball. It looked to me like he was just trying to keep his balance and the ball slipped out. I was very confused to hear people say that, as it didn't look (at all) like he was trying to lateral it from the camera angles I was seeing.
The players played well today, overall, save for the fumble by Garcon and the earlier fumble by Dallas Clark. Curtis Painter was 23/34 for 188 with a touchdown and an interception. Donald Brown had 35 yards on 5 carries, and rookie Delone Carter had 45 yards on 14 carries. Wayne, Garcon, and Clark all had at least five catches and 50 yards.
The defense, while struggling at times in the third quarter, largely played well enough to win. However, once again, the coaching staff left the fans with plenty of questions, such as: Why was promising young CB Kevin Thomas once again inactive, even though Jerraud Powers didn't practice all week? Why was Jerry Hughes inactive after the packages using him last week were actually effective? Why isn't Donald Brown getting more snaps when he's playing better than Carter? Why didn't Jim Caldwell use his time-outs late in the first half? Why is the team never prepared after halftime? Why is Lefeged even trying to return kicks any more?
The coaching staff may not be the main reason why the Colts are losing, but they sure aren't helping. On a positive note, the Colts are not an 0-16 team. They've been very unlucky to this point, and will get a couple wins before the season is out. But the below average coaching on game days should cause the management to look long and hard at replacing this staff. Go Colts!