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Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals

INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts 4-game win streak came to a screeching halt on Sunday afternoon.

In getting drubbed by the Bengals, the Colts had issues in all three phases, with their playoff chances also taking a big hit in Week 14.

What did we learn from the Colts falling to 7-6 on the year, in a 34-14 loss?


1. Pretender Mistakes

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Source:Getty

Pretender Mistakes: Luckily for the Colts, this one just counts as one loss in the standings. What you had on Sunday was some “pretender-like mistakes” that this team is not capable to overcome, especially as December competition rises a bit. You had (shockingly) Matt Gay mistakes with two missed kicks (one field goal, one extra point) inside of 40 yards. You had a false start in the red zone. You had a beyond brutal leverage penalty on backup defensive tackle Taven Bryan, which came on a 33-yard field goal attempt (are you really going to block that?) and allowed the Bengals another chance, and they converted that for a touchdown. And then you had a special teamer in Ameer Speed run into Isaiah McKenzie for a back-breaking fumbled punt. This Colts team isn’t potent enough to have mistakes like these and overcome them, especially as the competition has risen a bit from the Carolina and New England’s of the world. Really, outside of a 90-second sequence late in Sunday’s first half, the Colts were thoroughly handled by a team coming off a short week. Tied at half, the Colts were then outscored 20-0 the rest of the way. And if some of the mistakes stated above become a norm the rest of the way, the Colts will be on the couch come playoff time. When you factor in everything (facing a backup QB, the Bengals on a short week, what was at stake playoff wise) this was probably the worst Colts performance of the season.

2. Pass Defense Doesn’t Meet Challenge

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Source:Getty

This was always going to be the toughest wide receiver challenge of the season for the Colts. Cincinnati that explosive and deep at wide receiver. To counter that, the Colts needed to create some 4-man pressure against backup Jake Browning to offset the pressure on a youthful cornerback room. While the Colts cornerback group got exposed, as expected, it was the library quiet pass rush that didn’t aid the back end. Jake Browning wasn’t sacked in 24 pass attempts, and the Colts hardly ever pressured the new QB. The Colts pass rush has feasted on inexperienced QBs in their 4-game win streak. But that wasn’t the case on Sunday, even with the return of Grover Stewart. Another aspect to the Indy defense that was such a disaster against the Bengals was an inability to defend the Cincinnati screen game. In Monday’s win over the Jaguars, the Bengals hit a couple of big screen plays. Yet, despite seeing this on the most recent film, the Colts couldn’t take care of it. The Bengals piled up 124 yards on 3 different screen plays, back-breaking high percentage throws by Jake Browning leading to massive chunk plays. Breakdowns at every level of the Colts defense was there as playing a much more competent offense brought Gus Bradley’s unit back to life.

3. No Colts Run Game

NFL: DEC 10 Colts at Bengals Source:Getty

No Colts Run Game: For a second straight week, Zack Moss and the Colts run game was really stymied. Moss had 28 rushing yards on 13 carries. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, following Jonathan Taylor’s right thumb injury, Moss’ impressive running numbers from earlier this season had a decrease with Gardner Minshew starting vs. Anthony Richardson. Well life with Minshew has not been of benefit to the Colts run game these last two weeks. And Sunday’s effort was particularly disappointing when you factor in Cincinnati ranks 31st in the league in stopping the run. When you play the Bengals, you expect to control the trenches. That wasn’t at all the case. Negative plays for the Colts offense were abundant all throughout Sunday, and a Gardner Minshew-led unit isn’t overcoming routinely getting behind the chains. In saying Sunday’s performance was the worst of the season for the Colts, this specific area (offensive and defensive line) is probably atop the list, because the Bengals have not been strong in those areas this season.

4. Matt Gay Proves He’s Human

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Source:Getty

Matt Gay Proves He’s Human: So Matt Gay is human. Entering Sunday, there was little debate as to who the best/most consistent Colts player has been this season. But Matt Gay couldn’t be further from that on Sunday, doinking a first-half field goal from 38 yards out and then missing an extra point later in the second quarter. Again, Gay has been tremendous this season, being a weapon this team hasn’t had in recent years. But these December misses, in very calm weather considering it was outdoors, can’t happen for a player paid the amount of money Gay is to kick. This offense isn’t potent enough to overcome such mistakes in scoring position. While both of these misses included a slightly off-target snap, the holds from Rigoberto Sanchez appeared to be very solid. The good news is Gay is back kicking indoors the rest of the year, but that doesn’t excuse still the misses he had on Sunday in a very calm weather day, despite the cold temps.

5. Playoff Chances Take Hit

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Source:Getty

Playoff Chances Take Hit: Sunday’s loss halts the Colts’ 4-game win streak. What also stings about the loss in Week 13 is it came to a fellow AFC team and now has given the Bengals a potentially very important head-to-head tiebreaker with both teams now 7-6 on the season. Sunday’s game had around a 30 percent difference for the Colts with their playoff chances, depending on a loss. The loss drops the Colts playoff chances north to around 50 percent with 4 games left (pending other Week 14 results). Next up for the Colts is a Steelers team that looked terrible on Thursday Night Football and is dealing with their top two pass rushers (T.J. Watt and Alonzo Highsmith) in concussion protocol. It’s another monumental one against a Pittsburgh (7-6) team in the thick of the Wild Card picture. Sunday’s loss means the Colts margin for error, which they’ve built up in recent week, has shrunk a bit. And this Saturday’s game against the Steelers is a huge, huge, one for those playoff hopes.


NFL: NOV 26 Buccaneers at Colts Source:Getty


-Injury Report: The following Colts were inactive on Sunday: RB-Jonathan Taylor (right thumb), RT-Braden Smith (knee), CB-JuJu Brents (quad), LB-E.J. Speed (knee), DT-Eric Johnson, OL-Jack Anderson, DE-Isaiah Land. The following players got injured and did not return:

-Key Stat: Zack Moss finished Sunday with just 28 rushing yards on 13 carries.

-What’s Next: The Colts (7-6) will return home in Week 14 for a Saturday kickoff against the Steelers (7-5) at 4:30 PM. The Steelers just lost to the Patriots on Thursday Night Football.

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