After one half of play, the Colts lead the Bengals 16-10. The defense has been playing very fast and has an entirely different personality from the one a year ago. The offense is hitting on all cylinders early and has been efficiently directed by Frank Reich and Andrew Luck. The pace on offense in the first half had the Bengals defensive line visibly exhausted, which should pay dividends in the second half.
Let’s revisit the keys to the game and see how things have been going after two quarters.
Colts Tight Ends vs. Bengals Linebackers and Secondary
We have already seen the impact of utilizing tight ends Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope in the first half. All have been able to take advantage of mismatches against linebackers in coverage. Eric Ebron’s touchdown occurred while in man coverage with a linebacker.
The tight ends are the only players getting in on the act in the short-middle zones. Running backs have also been targeted on dump-off passes in short-zones and have been taking advantage of Cincinnati’s weakness in this area of the field.
Colts Offensive Line vs. Bengals Pass Rush
Outside of a couple of holding penalties, the offensive line has been doing a nice job. They have been aided by a heavy dose of quick release passes and shorter routes. They have also been aided by keeping the Bengals defense guessing by using a lot of different offensive weapons and keeping players fresh in the backfield. Joe Haeg has been doing a nice job at left tackle.
How about all of them? Jordan Wilkins got the start and continues to display excellent vision and one step burst to get through the hole when it is there. Nyheim Hines has been a huge surprise after a lackluster preseason and has certainly been used in a lot of different ways. There has been a great deal of motion pre-snap in the backfield to create space and mismatches as well.
At this point, it is exciting to imagine how dynamic the backfield could be when Mack and Turbin return.
Can Matt Eberflus Manufacture Pressure on Andy Dalton?
Pressure has been inconsistent in the first half but it has also helped keep the Bengals out of the end zone and helped force a turnover. Al Woods batted pass early in the game that was picked off by Kenny Moore. Denico Autry batted down a pass that ended a drive in the red zone and forced Cincinnati to take a field goal.
We still need to see the edge rush get to work.
Opportunism on Defense
Kenny Moore picked up an interception off of the Al Woods batted pass. Matthias Farley forced A.J. Green to fumble and Darius Leonard recovered it. This is a big deal as we head into the second half.