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Colts stymie Bengals, move on to playoff showdown with Broncos

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts overcame a bevy of self-inflicted wounds throughout today’s game to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 26-10.

The Colts got off to a fast start, but their first half was marred by miscues. On top of a lost fumble, they also dropped four passes. The mistakes took quite a few potential points off the board. Despite this, the Colts took a 13-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Colts were able to execute slightly better in the second half, stretching their lead out to a 16-point victory. The win is their second straight home wild-card round victory, and it is the second playoff victory for head coach Chuck Pagano and quarterback Andrew Luck.

Heading into this game, I had these main points I was looking for:

  • Keep Andy Dalton on his toes – Without A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton’s hands were tied. The Colts held him to a performance of 18/35 passing and 155 passing yards, and they also sacked him three times.
  • Contain Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard – Since the last time the Colts and Bengals faced off, Bengals rookie tailback Jeremy Hill leads the NFL in rushing yards. Today, the Colts held the combination of Hill and Giovani Bernard to 16 carries, 53 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, and 8 catches for 46 receiving yards.
  • Eliminate the mistakes – Something that has haunted the second half of the Colts’ season are turnovers and dropped passes. Despite the win, the Colts continued this today. Dan Herron fumbled inside of two minutes to go in the first half, and the Colts had at least four dropped passes.

INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Andrew Luck [Stat Line: 31/44 passing (70%), 376 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 2 carries, 18 rushing yards, 104.0 quarterback rating] – Luck took four shots downfield in the first quarter, and all but one was dropped by the intended receiver. Overall, the four plays represented roughly 130 yards and a touchdown missed. In the second half, Luck’s offensive teammates began to play somewhat to his level, and they earned a win because of it.
  • Dan Herron [Stat Line: 12 carries, 56 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 10 catches, 85 receiving yards, 2 fumbles (1 lost)] – Herron did a great job on the opening drive, touching the ball five times for 58 yards and a touchdown. He did well throughout the entire game, save for two fumbles (one lost). With all of the errors, Herron helped keep the Colts’ offense alive.
  • Zurlon Tipton [Stat Line: 11 carries, 40 rushing yards, 1 catch, 6 receiving yards] – Colts rookie running back Zurlon Tipton showed a lot of determination in his carries in the fourth quarter. He made tackling him a tough task for the Bengals defense.
  • TY Hilton [Stat Line: 6 catches, 103 receiving yards] – TY Hilton dropped tough catches on each of the Colts’ first two drives. The first, a would-be 40-yard touchdown and the second, what would have been a 25-yard completion to get them out of poor field position. Then, Hilton picked up 17 yards on third-and-11 to open up the second quarter, then followed it with a 30-yard catch-and-run right after. Overall, Hilton had three drops, but his 100-plus receiving yards made up for it.
  • Dwayne Allen [Stat Line: 3 catches, 30 receiving yards] – After a disastrous first quarter two weeks ago against the Dallas Cowboys and then sitting out last week, tight end Dwayne Allen got back into the mix today. He did have two false starts on the same drive in the second quarter (the Colts were still able to get a field goal out of the drive), but he did not have any drops, and he pulled in three catches.
  • Arthur Jones, Josh Chapman [Combined Stat Line: 3 tackles] – Defensive linemen Arthur Jones and Josh Chapman did a good job helping plug up running lanes, holding the Bengals running backs to just 76 yards on the ground.
  • Jerrell Freeman [Stat Line: 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 QB hit] – Jerrell Freeman was an absolute playmaker today, roaming the line of scrimmage and sideline-to-sideline and getting into the backfield to disrupt Cincinnati’s offensive flow.
  • Vontae Davis [Stat Line: 4 tackles (1 for loss), 1 pass defended] – Colts Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis did a terrific job helping hold the Bengals passing game in check. The Bengals leading receiver (with Green out), Mohamed Sanu, had just three catches for 31 yards.
  • Adam Vinatieri [Stat Line: 4/4 field goals, LG-53, 2/2 extra points] – With how many times the Colts offense shot themselves in the foot, they needed every bit of Vinatieri’s 14 points.

TEAM OBSERVATIONS

  • The Colts’ offensive line did a terrific job of giving Luck a clean pocket and giving him time to progress through his reads.

Next week, the Colts will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in the divisional round at 4:40pm EST on Sunday, January 11.

Questions or comments? Leave them in the comment box below!

Jake Arthur is the Associate Editor and Indianapolis Colts Beat Writer for the Indiana Sports Report. Follow @JakeArthurISR and @IndySportsRep on Twitter.

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