INDIANAPOLIS –When Chuck Pagano took over as Colts head coach in 2012, he had an image in mind for the team's defense.
That plan, that proposed design, is starting to take shape nicely.
The Colts, in thumping the visiting Cincinnati Bengals by a 27-0 count on Sunday, registered their first shutout victory since Dec. 28, 2008. That was a 23-0 defeat of Tennessee in the final regular-season game under then-Coach Tony Dungy.
Pagano, for the second time this season, gave a game ball Sunday to every player on the Indianapolis defense. "That's one," he said, "where you put the stats on there and put that goose-egg on there."
Defensive goose-eggs, as Pagano said, are something special in the NFL.
"We're just starting to get a glimpse of what we envisioned when we got together a couple of years ago … what we wanted to build here," he said. "Looks like that monster is starting to rear its head a little bit."
Cincinnati came into the game ranked fifth in overall yards in the NFL. The Bengals were averaging 6.34 yards per play, second in the NFL.
The Colts held the visitors to 135 total net yards and 2.5 per play. The Colts forced three-and-out possessions 10 times. They also forced 11 Cincinnati punts, tying for the most ever by a Colts opponent.
The Bengals managed just eight first downs and were 1-of-13 on third-down conversions. They had the ball for only 20 minutes, 17 seconds, compared to 39:43 for Indianapolis.
"We just gotta keep it going," Pagano said. "We can play better. I know we can. We will. They are bound and determined … to be a top-five if not a top defense in the league."
For the Colts' offense, Andrew Luck completed 27-of-42 passes for 344 yards with a pair of touchdowns. It represented his fifth straight 300-plus-yard game, tying the franchise record held by Peyton Manning.
"We sort of broke through and got some points on the board," Luck said about a Colts offense that was uneven early but gained momentum. "You feel like you don't have to do too much when you're playing with a defense and special teams like (the Colts').
"They've … done a heckuva job all year. It's fun to feed off of each other in all three phases."
FIRST QUARTER (33 seconds remaining)
In a defensive first quarter, the Colts got on the scoreboard first, using a 10-play, 68-yard march to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 23-yard field goal. Quarterback Andrew Luck completed passes of 22 yards to T.Y. Hilton and 23 yards Coby Fleener to highlight the drive.Colts 3, Bengals 0.
SECOND QUARTER (12:08 remaining)
While the Colts' defense continued to be impressive, the Indy offense also went to work. Luck's 46-yard completion to Hilton and a 15-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw put the Colts in good position. Bradshaw capped a 68-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run. Vinatieri added the extra point.** Colts 10, Bengals 0.
THIRD QUARTER (9:47 remaining)
Tight end Dwayne Allen made a superb catch and run to extend the Colts' lead. Moving right to left across the field, Allen collected a high pass from Luck and continued toward the left sideline. From there, he stayed in bounds to score on a 32-yard completion. Luck was 4-of-6 for 80 passing yards on the drive. Vinatieri hit the extra point. **Colts 17, Bengals 0.
FOURTH QUARTER (12:09 remaining)
The Colts marched methodically downfield for another touchdown, going 85 yards in 13 plays and taking 7 minutes, 51 seconds off the clock. The touchdown came on a 10-yard pass hookup from Luck to Bradshaw, who fought his way into the end zone. The big play earlier was Luck's 18-yard completion to Bradshaw on third down at the Bengals' 39-yard line. Vinatieri added the extra point. ** Colts 24, Bengals 0.
FOURTH QUARTER (1:55 remaining)
Vinatieri booted a 50-yard field goal to complete an 11-play, 63-yard drive. Colts 27, Bengals 0.