Give the Cincinnati Bengals plenty of credit. In a game that pitted two of the AFC’s better teams and two of the National Football League’s best young quarterbacks, the home-standing Bengals took care of business.
The Indianapolis Colts showed flashes, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Cincinnati posted a 42-28 National Football League win at snowy Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.
Despite Colts quarterback Andrew Luck connecting on 29 of 46 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns, two each to relatively inexperienced wide receivers Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill, it was the Indianapolis defense that couldn’t come up with enough stops.
There was also some officiating controversy near the end of the first half which didn’t help matters as the Colts dropped to 8-5 for the season. Indianapolis has now lost three of its last six games, giving up 38, 41 and 42 points to St. Louis, Arizona and the Bengals. Two of those losses have come on the road.
“Obviously, it was a very disappointing loss,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said afterward. “Credit Cincinnati. They played extremely well in all three phases. We couldn’t get off to a fast start like we had talked about.
“And then when you don’t convert on third down — I think we were 0 for 5 again in the first half. They converted and we couldn’t get off the field. We gave up too many big plays in the run game and the pass game. On special teams, we were doing a decent job. As a matter of fact, a really good job, in the first half. We pinned them back at times. We gave up plays and long drives.”
Ironically, it was a defensive stand that the Colts actually made that ended up not counting and skewing the final margin of the Cincinnati victory.
Second-year nose tackle Josh Chapman appeared to have stopped Bengals (and former Indiana University) running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis on fourth-and-goal at the Colts 1-yard line with 1:14 left in the second quarter.
Green-Ellis had rolled into the end zone at the conclusion of the play. Indianapolis was trailing 7-0 at the time, so the possibility of Cincinnati having to turn the ball over on downs could have been a momentum shifter.
After initially signaling that the Colts had regained possession, the play was then subjected to a replay review. Referee Jeff Triplette reversed himself, saying that Green-Ellis had not been touched and allowed the touchdown.
The decision was not a popular one, evoking strong comments from national NFL observers on social media.
Cincinnati had taken a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a 29-yard pass from third-year quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver Marvin Jones.
The Bengals pushed their lead to 21-0 early in the third quarter, driving 80 yards in nine plays on their first possession of the second half. Green-Ellis scored on a no-doubter up the middle from a yard out.
Indianapolis finally got its own offense untracked, scoring on a 69-yard pass and catch to Rogers. The undrafted rookie from Tennessee Tech caught a slant over the middle, breaking several tackles and sprinting the rest of the way into the end zone.
The score narrowed the margin to 21-7. On its next possession, Luck fired a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brazill that brought the Colts to within 21-14. The second-year receiver broke six tackles after catching the ball as he powered his way into the end zone.
Cincinnati added touchdowns by tight end Jermaine Gresham (1-yard pass), wide receiver A.J. Green (9-yard pass) and an 8-yard scramble by Dalton to close out the Colts — but not before Indianapolis threatened to make things interesting. Brazill added his second touchdown catch of the day on a 29-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter, and Rogers had a 2-yard TD catch with 1:20 remaining in the game.
The Colts were their own worst enemy at times, giving up 430 total yards, and were burned by ill-timed penalties (six for 47 yards).
Inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was flagged for taunting in the third quarter after Indianapolis had come up with a defensive stop on third down. The penalty gave Cincinnati an automatic first down and kept their drive alive.
“There were certainly a couple of penalties that we committed. You just can’t beat yourself. It’s too hard to win games in December football,” Pagano said. “Playoff atmosphere, playoff type of football, when you’re trying to win to seal your division up. You just can’t beat yourself like that.”
Dalton paced the Cincinnati offense, completing 24 of 35 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard had 99 yards rushing on 12 carries, while Green-Ellis had 48 yards on 17 attempts and two TDs.
Rogers, playing in only his second NFL game, caught six passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Brazill, meanwhile, had three catches for 58 yards and two TDs. Running back Trent Richardson had five catches for 68 yards.
“It was good to see those guys make some plays,” Pagano said.
Indianapolis will return to Lucas Oil Stadium next Sunday to face AFC South rival Houston, which will be playing its second game after firing former head coach Gary Kubiak on Friday. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is the interim head coach. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Bengals 42, Colts 28
Indianapolis 0 0 14 14 — 28
Cincinnati 7 7 14 14 — 42
Cin—M.Jones 29 pass from Dalton (Nugent kick)
Cin—Green-Ellis 1 run (Nugent kick)
Cin—Green-Ellis 1 run (Nugent kick)
Ind—Rogers 69 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick)
Ind—Brazill 19 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick)
Cin—Gresham 1 pass from Dalton (Nugent kick)
Cin—Green 9 pass from Dalton (Nugent kick)
Ind—Brazill 29 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick)
Cin—Dalton 8 run (Nugent kick)
Ind—Rogers 2 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick)
First downs 21 28
Total Net Yards 389 430
Rushes-yards 12-63 35-155
Passing 326 275
Punt Returns 1-0 4-73
Kickoff Returns 7-140 3-86
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 29-46-0 24-35-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 0-0 0-0
Punts 7-47.6 5-50.6
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-47 7-60
Time of Possession 22:15 37:45
RUSHING—Indianapolis, Luck 2-32, Richardson 6-20, D.Brown 4-11. Cincinnati, Bernard 12-99, Green-Ellis 17-48, Dalton 5-11, M.Jones 1-(minus 3).
PASSING—Indianapolis, Luck 29-46-0-326. Cincinnati, Dalton 24-35-0-275.
RECEIVING—Indianapolis, Rogers 6-107, Richardson 5-68, Fleener 5-31, D.Brown 4-18, Brazill 3-53, Heyward-Bey 2-23, Hilton 2-7, Saunders 1-11, Doyle 1-8. Cincinnati, Green 6-72, Gresham 5-41, Bernard 4-49, M.Jones 3-60, Eifert 3-20, Sanu 2-26, Hawkins 1-7.