2010: Colts 23, Bengals (2-7) 17
Early in the game, all the pieces were in place for an Indy romp. The Colts jumped out to a 17-0 lead and were in cruise control early in the second quarter. However, a 42-yard run by Brian Leonard on a punt fake swung the momentum back Cincinnati’s way, and they were in the game throughout. The Colts offense was inefficient as they punted seven times in the game. Five Cincy turnovers were their ultimate undoing, but despite all of that, the Bengals had the ball with under a minute left and a chance to win the game. Back-to-back sacks by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis ended whatever hope the Bengals had of a comeback.
2009: Colts 18, 49ers (3-3) 14
Oddly enough, Joseph Addai threw the only touchdown pass of this game, as Peyton Manning wasn’t his usual self. You would never be able to tell that #18 was off from his final line: 31-48 for 347 yards, but he missed on a lot of throws that he normally makes. Peyton’s shakiness kept the Niners in the game, as Alex Smith was solid in his first start in two seasons, despite playing behind a struggling offensive line that allowed four sacks.
2008: Colts 10, Browns (4-7) 6
Peyton Manning did complete 15 of his 21 pass attempts, but threw for just 125 yards in the victory. Both defenses dominated the game as there wasn’t an offensive touchdown scored - the only TD in teh game came on a Robert Mathis scoop-and-score off of a Derek Anderson fumble in the fourth quarter. It was the first time since Week One of 2003, coincidentally enough also against Cleveland, that the Colts had failed to score an offensive touchdown in a game.
2007: Colts 13, Chiefs (4-6) 10
Coming off back-to-back losses to New England and San Diego, their first two of the season, the Colts were in desperate need of a victory. Peyton Manning was dreadful (I would argue it was possibly his worst game since pre-2003), leading to a 23.4 halftime QB rating. After another half, he had only bumped that up to an even 50, finishing with a 16-32 day for 163 yards and a pick. The Colts only managed 73 first half yards, but were able to put together a 14-play drive that ate up the final seven minutes of regulation, to set up Adam Vinatieri’s winner from 24 yards out.
2006: Colts 17, Bills (3-6) 16
Peyton Manning was strong in this game, but the Buffalo defense forced mostly short throws as Indy had to dink-and-dunk their way down the field. Peyton finished with a solid line of 27-39, for 236 yards and a score, but the Bills were still in position to take the lead in the fourth. Ryan Lindell missed a 41-yard field goal with just over six minutes left that would’ve given Buffalo the lead. The Colts took over possession, picked up four first downs, and were able to end the game without the Bills getting another chance.
2005: Colts 13, Browns (1-1) 6
Everyone remembers the 2005 Colts rolling over every team they faced, but early in the year Indy struggled against a Browns team that would finish the year 6-10. Peyton Manning had a quiet day with no scores and a pick, and the Colts rode three Dwight Freeney sacks to a win over the Trent Dilfer led Browns. Dilfer went 22 of 29 in the game, but for only 208 yards. The Colts led throughout, but never managed to put the game safely away.
2003 Colts 9, Browns (0-0) 6
Another tight win over a terrible Browns team opened the 2003 season. The Browns would finish 5-11 on the year, but they took the Colts to overtime as Peyton Manning's two interceptions kept the Browns in the game all day. Manning finally rallied the team to a winning field goal drive in the final seconds, but no one would have looked at his passer rating of 55 that day and said, "Oh yeah. This guy is going to win the MVP award this year".
Let me get this out of the way first:
This Colts offense is not good enough to make the playoffs.
Then again, this Colts offense won't have to.
For a third consecutive game, the Colts struggled to pass the ball effectively as Manning has seen his once formidable selection of weapons whittled down to a skeleton crew. Make no mistake, on a day when the Colts' defense played at a championship level, the Indy offense was a mess. No offense featuring Bradon and Javarris James and Gijon Robinson as primary components is going to make the playoffs. The Colts aren't running or throwing the ball well right now. The offensive line has looked terrible for three games running, and Manning has struggled mightily after the bye.
The bottom line is that Clark, Collie and Addai (not to mention White and Hart) is just too much firepower to lose all at once. There's no sugar coating the offensive debacle that was Sunday's game. On a day when the defense played well enough for the Colts to win by 30, the offense and the coaching staff simply failed to hold up their end of the bargain. The good news for the Colts is that soon, possibly this week, Indy will return Collie and Addai to the line up. While they alone won't solve everything that ails the Colts, they'll fix a lot of the problems.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis defense continues to play inspired football in Lucas Oil Stadium. The real story of the day is the five turnovers forced (directly leading to 17 points without much contribution from the offense) and the countless clutch plays turned in by the Colts defense. After awhile you grow used to watching Freeney and Mathis make big plays with the game on the line, but every once in a while, Freeney does something to make you sit up and take notice anew. At the end of a long, exhausting game, Freeney was still hustling to tackle a tight end six yards downfield, and forced the fumble by Graham that all but sealed the win. This is why he's one of the great Colts ever and belongs on the Rushmore of great Indianapolis Colts.
The truth is that today was about more than just the usual suspects on defense. It was about Jerry Hughes forcing a critical sack. It was about Kavell Conner, Hagler, and Angerer making huge plays, forcing turnovers and playing sound football. It was about Muir and Foster being disruptive. It was about 19 carries for 30 yards for the Bengals.
And yes, it was about five turnovers.
Lucas Oil Stadium has become a safe harbor for the Colts especially on defense. In Indy, the Colts have allowed just over two TDs a game (and many of those points were in garbage time). They've forced 10 turnovers in 4 games. The Colts defense has become so dominant at home, that I can't see them losing a home game. That would get the Colts to 10 wins.
Whether they can get 1 or 2 more on the road...
Well, this offense certainly can't do that.
The Colts rushed for under 3.5 YPC, Peyton completed only 55.6% of his passes for a mere 5.1 yards per attempt, Indy started 6 of their first 8 drives at or inside their own 20 and the Bengals outgained the Colts 359 to 261.
Despite all that Indy won by 6 thanks to picking Palmer off 3 times and recovering fumbles by Benson and Gresham while committing no turnovers themselves.
Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph's skills were on full display as neither Reggie Wayne nor Pierre Garçon broke 40 yards receiving. Leaving Jacob Tamme and Brandon James as Peyton's main targets. The Bengals very lackluster pass rush brought Peyton down twice and applied pressure regularly.
The game was tight late thanks to a combination of soft zone, a terrible ST gaffe by Garçon combined with a horrible unchangeable ruling and Indy being unable to pick up a 1st with 3 straight runs. The D stepped up to save the game stripping the ball away from Jermaine Gresham and recording back to back sacks on Carson Palmer.
A rough offensive day by Indy's skeleton crew was saved by the defense.
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The Colts caught a break already this week with the Ravens' loss on Thursday night. If Indy can beat the Bengals, they'll be no worse than a game out of the top spot in the conference and still in first place in the South.
Here's who to root for this weekend:
Dolphins Vs Titans
Browns Vs Jets
The Titans are tied with the Colts for the top slot in the South, we want them to go down. The Jets are a game ahead of Indy, so a loss by them would elevate the Colts into a tie for the second spot in the AFC.
Jaguars vs Texans
Both teams are 4-4, so you could argue that it doesn't matter who wins. This is true, but I think the Texans are the better team by a lot. I'm rooting for the Jags.
Broncos Vs Chiefs
Maybe we should be rooting for the Chiefs so as to keep San Diego out of the playoffs, but I'd most rather see Oakland in that slot (hurts the Pats). I'll field arguments that we should be pulling for KC, but I'll feel better about it when they are behind the Colts in record and not tied with them (yes, I know Indy has the tiebreaker).
Patriots vs Steelers
My double reasoning is that Indy plays New England, and can make up the game they trail the Pats, and I think Pittsburgh is better. Frankly, I don't think the Pats win this game or the next one against the Colts. I think they are headed for a 10-6 record at best, and if they fall hard to 9-7, I won't be shocked.
18 Things to Watch for in Sunday's Colts-Bengals game
This class would do Chad Johnson some good.
Last week, the Colts suffered one of the most painful losses in their history, but there's no time to sit and mourn. The banged up Colts have to jump right back into action against their nearest geographical rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. As the Colts and Bengals hook up in the Luke on Sunday be on the watch for:
1. Watch for the trap. For years now, the Colts have taken care of business against losing teams. They robotically take one week at a time, refusing to look ahead to the future. They'll need that focus this week, because with the Pats and Chargers looming, Indy can't afford to take the slumping Bengals lightly. Cincy is not a good football team, but they play lots of hard, close games. They'll be tired coming off a physical loss to the Steelers on Monday night, so the Colts ought to be able to put their foot down. Well coached team don't lose trap games.
- Bengals have just 7 sacks all season.
- The Bengals are on pace to be just the 3rd team in the last 25 years to record less than 15 sacks in a season.
- They have only 1 sack in the last month (3 games+bye).
- 3 of their 7 sacks were in one game against Tampa.
- Tampa was their only multi-sack game.
- They have gone without a sack in 3 of their 8 games.
- The only pass rush category the Bengals lead the league in is "Coolest named DE" thanks to Frostee Rucker
- The Bengals average a sack for every 40 dropbacks
- The Bengals only have 3 sacks from their defensive line.
- Their only player with more than 1 sack is FS Chris Crocker.