CINCINNATI, Ohio —The Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon fell to the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-23, in their Week 8 matchup at Paul Brown Stadium.
What's top of mind for the Colts after falling to 2-6 on the year?
With a break from interdivisional play, the Indianapolis Colts traveled to Cincinnati on Sunday with hopes of earning their first road victory of the season. The other goal was to get the bad taste out of their mouths after last week's 27-0 home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Photos from the week 8 game against the Cincinnati Bengals
While the Colts certainly played much better overall on Sunday than they did a week prior, they were unable to shut the door to achieve Goal No. 1 after leading by six points with just more than seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, when Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap tipped a Jacoby Brissett pass, picked it out of the air and returned it for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
For the Colts, it's the sixth time in the past seven weeks that they have had a lead in the second half, but just couldn't run away with it. While two of those games resulted in close victories for Indianapolis, the team continues to work through some of the same issues each and every week.
On the bright side, the Colts can certainly take some pride in their defense, which played well and made several plays on Sunday without three starters: safety Malik Hooker (gone for the year with a knee injury), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (concussion) and outside linebacker John Simon (stinger).
But the squad is yet to really see all three phases playing well simultaneously to this point of the season, so now it moves back into divisional play next week against the Houston Texans hoping to find some sort of breakthrough.
The aforementioned Dunlap pick-six was deflating for a Colts team that was hoping to march down the field and finally put a game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
On 2nd and 6 from the Indianapolis 24, Brissett, lined up in the shotgun, appeared to try to target tight end Jack Doyle for a short pass across the middle, but Dunlap — all 6 foot 6 and 280 pounds of him — got his massive paw on the ball at the line, and plucked the ball out of the air at the 16 and rumbled his way to the end zone from there.
After the extra point, the Colts, who had a lead past the halfway mark of the fourth quarter, were all of a sudden trailing once again, 24-23, and they weren't able to get close enough to try even a game-winning field goal attempt on their ensuing drive, leading to loss No. 6 on the year.
It was the fourth pick-six thrown by the Colts' offense this season.
PLAY OF THE GAME
There aren't many plays in playbooks across the NFL that are a cure-all on 3rd and 13, but most offensive coordinators tend to call something like a screen play in those scenarios for its "low-risk, high-reward" potential.
That's what happened late in the third quarter on Sunday, as the Colts drove into Cincinnati territory on their first drive of the second half.
Trailing 17-13, though, the Bengals seemed to hold strong at their own 24-yard line after a run by Marlon Mack went for a loss of six yards on 1st and 10 from the 21, and a short pass to Mack got three yards on 2nd and 16.
So on 3rd and 13, the Colts went right back to Mack for a third straight play.
This time it worked just fine.
Able to draw the defensive front into the backfield, Brissett slipped his short pass to Mack at the line of scrimmage, and the speedy back was able to turn on the burners and glide down the left sideline and into the end zone for the 24-yard score — Mack's first-career touchdown reception.
With 2:19 to go in the third quarter, the Colts had re-taken the lead, 20-17, and were able to appropriately cap off a 13-play, 88-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock.
Jack Doyle was a constant threat throughout the afternoon for the Colts' offense, and he was also a catalyst, as his 13-yard touchdown reception at the 8:14 mark of the second quarter was the first time either team found the end zone on the day.
By game's end, Doyle had caught 12 passes for a career-best 121 yards and that aforementioned touchdown, the second of the season for the tight end and the 10th of his career.
After having a rough stretch earlier in the season — suffering a concussion against the San Francisco 49ers, missing the team's next game and then losing a fumble and dropping two key passes the following week against the Tennessee Titans — Doyle seems to be just fine for the Colts as they enter the second half of the season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• Henry Anderson was a major factor throughout the day for both the Colts' defensive and special teams units. First, Anderson blocked a Bengals' 34-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, and then he had a huge sack of Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton to force a punt late in the fourth quarter, as Indianapolis tried to mount a comeback. In all, Anderson finished his day with seven tackles — three for a loss — with a sack, and after having a sack/forced fumble last week against the Jaguars, he really seems to be coming on strong now for the Indy defense.
• Frank Gore had his best overall performance of the season on Sunday. The 34-year-old back showed an impressive burst throughout the afternoon, carrying the ball 16 times for 82 yards, for a 5.1 yards-per-attempt average, while he also added four receptions for 19 yards, including a tough 12-yard reception to convert and 3rd and 6 on that first drive of the second half that ended up leading to the touchdown pass to Mack.
• One week after he didn't get the chance to step on the field even once, Adam Vinatieri continued rolling on Sunday, hitting all three of his field goal attempts, as well as two extra points, for 11 points. With his 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, extending the Colts' lead at the time to 23-17, Vinatieri tied Gary Anderson for the second most points scored in NFL history with 2,434.
• Two areas that usually lead to wins — third-down conversions and takeaways — favored the Colts on Sunday. They converted half their attempts (8-of-16) on third down, while they won the takeaway battle, 2-1. Indianapolis also had the ball for 33:13 on the afternoon, compared to 26:47 for the Bengals. It's just one of those games where the boxscore generally isn't indicative of the final outcome.
• The Colts held the Bengals to just 58 rushing yards on the day, including a 2.8 yards-per-rush average. Rookie running back Joe Mixon, who has certainly showed several flashes of talent throughout the year, was held to just 18 yards on 11 attempts.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• Untimely mistakes were the downfall for the Colts once again on Sunday. There were several key drops by receivers, poorly-timed penalties (Indianapolis had seven accepted penalties for 45 yards) and just general mishaps in coverage that reared their ugly head at various junctures, and the Bengals took advantage. Despite winning the turnover battle and being successful on third down, it's these mistakes that are a difference between a win and a loss.
• On a day that featured multiple splash plays on special teams, the Bengals were able to strike first. After hitting a dead end on their first drive of the game, the Colts sent out the punt unit, but Rigoberto Sanchez's first kick of day would be blocked by Bengals rookie Jordan Willis, who blew by protector Matthias Farley, giving the ball to Cincinnati at the Indianapolis 49. Fortunately for the Colts, the Bengals would only be limited to a game-opening field goal nine plays and 38 yards later.
INJURY REPORT•Head coach Chuck Pagano said after the game the team suffered no notable injuries on Sunday.WHAT'S NEXT
The Colts return to AFC South Divisional play next week, when they travel to Houston to take on the Texans at NRG Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on CBS. The Texans entered today's game against the Seahawks in Seattle at 3-3.