(8-5) Colts 28 – Bengals 42 (9-4)
On a chilly northern day that saw games in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia affected by snow and blizzards, the Colts froze in Cincinnati, falling to the AFC North-leading Bengals, 42-28, in 25-degree weather.
The Colts have now dropped three of their last six games after starting the season 5-2, largely due to the fact that leading receiver Reggie Wayne is no longer in the lineup after tearing his ACL in Week 7. Wayne’s injury has been referenced more than any other injury on the roster – and there are a lot, considering the Colts have lost four other offensive starters to injured reserve (TE Dwayne Allen, OG Donald Thomas, RB Vick Ballard, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw)- but that’s because Wayne’s impact is far greater than any other player on the team.
He gets open. He makes difficult catches. The extra coverage he gets from opponents opens up other players in the passing game. He’s as reliable as they come on third down. Without Wayne, the Colts are just not the same.
Since 87’s departure, the offense has struggled to generate any momentum, often falling behind by large, insurmountable margins in the first half. After getting a nice win against Tennessee last week, the Colts went right back to their old habits and allowed the Bengals to open up a 21-point lead into the third quarter. It did not help that one of the scores, a one-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, should not have counted. The play was not called a touchdown on the field, but referee Jeff Triplette incorrectly reversed the decision upon review and ruled the play a touchdown, saying Green-Ellis was not touched prior to reaching the end zone. However, video footage strongly suggested otherwise.
Would the original ruling have led to a different result for Indianapolis? Probably not, but it certainly didn’t help. Indy’s struggles reached far beyond the missed call. Andrew Luck had more rushing yards than both Donald Brown and Trent Richardson. Darrius Heyward-Bey continued his struggles with dropped passes, and T.Y. Hilton had just two receptions for a measly seven yards. The Colts were just two of 10 on third down, and the defense could not generate a single sack of Andy Dalton. Adam Vinatieri even missed a field goal.
The Colts, though, true to recent form, came out firing after halftime and did get themselves in the game. After throwing for just 96 yards in the first half, Luck threw for 230 in the second. He also had four touchdown passes after being shut out last week. Da’Rick Rogers and Lavon Brazil had two touchdown catches apiece. It was just Rogers’ second NFL game ever, and he led the team with six catches for 107 yards. Richardson, although struggling on the ground, made some nice plays in the passing game and ended up with 68 receiving yards on five receptions. The Colts were even a perfect two-for-two in the red zone. In the end, though, it just wasn’t enough to get by the red-hot Bengals, who had a very-balanced three receiving touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns on 430 total net yards of offense. Indy simply did not play consistently well for long enough to take command of the game at any point.
The Colts are not looking great, but they have a much easier opponent next week, when they will host the 2-11 Houston Texans at home. The AFC South title is still theirs to lose.