A shambolic second-half performance snapped the Indianapolis Colts four-game win streak in Sunday’s 34-14 blowout loss in Cincinnati.
Bengals quarterback Jake Browning carved up the Colts secondary to earn his second career win, completing 18-of-24 pass attempts for 275 passing yards. He dropped back at his own goal line, took a hit by Colts defensive end Tyquan Lewis, but found receiver Tyler Boyd open at the sticks. Browning faked a handoff and dumped off a designed screen to rookie running back Chase Brown for a 54-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Cincinnati (7-6) managed to get away with the same screen play on the next drive as Browning ran play action and dumped another designed screen off to running back Joe Mixon for a 45-yard gain. After what seemed to be a defensive stop for the Colts, Bengals kicker Evan McPherson’s 33-yard field goal was nullified once Taven Bryan lined up over the center and used his hands to leverage his leap, which gifted the Bengals a first down at the Colts 7-yard line.
Two plays later, a defensive holding penalty against cornerback Jaylon Jones gave the Bengals first-&-goal at the two-yard line. Mixon managed to reach the orange and black-striped turf on three carries to extend the lead to 14-0.
Indianapolis’ offense faced struggles inside the red zone. After Zack Moss rushed toward the boundary and was blown up in the backfield, a false start penalty was issued to tackle Bernhard Raimann. Colts kicker Matt Gay’s had his worst performance of the season, too. His 38-yard field goal attempt ricocheted off the left upright, then he later missed an extra-point attempt.
A shove in the back drew a roughing the passer penalty against Bengals edge rusher Trey Hendrickson, giving the Colts a first down. Minshew connected with rookie tight end Will Mallory to drive inside Bengals territory. The fifth-year veteran kept the drive alive on consecutive third downs by delivering a dart to Alec Pierce running a slant, then used his legs to move the sticks on the next set of downs.
Minshew fed Moss on six consecutive carries inside the red zone, but to no avail. Facing fourth-&-1 after the two-minute warning, Minshew ran play action and lofted a jump ball as TE Mo Ali Cox caught his second TD in the back of the end zone.
Mo goes up and pulls it down.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 10, 2023
Indianapolis tied the game 14-14 two plays later as linebacker Rodney Harrison Jr. returned a pick-six, stealing a deflected pass off the hands of Bengals’ TE Tanner Hudson. The Colts have the NFL’s longest active takeaway streak at 18 consecutive games. Minshew found receiver Michael Pittman Jr. sprinting across the back of the end zone to score the two-point conversion.
Nabbed six right out of their hands.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 10, 2023
The Bengals ignited the onslaught just two plays into the second half as Browning slung a pass to Tee Higgins across the middle for a 26-yard gain. The Bengals’ rookie marched downfield by connecting with Jamaar Chase on a comeback route near the sideline, then tossed left to Mixon for an 18-yard gain. Cincinnati needed just six plays to retake a 21-14 lead as Browning delivered an 11-yard pass to Hudson for his first NFL touchdown catch.
Browning delivered a dime downfield for a 46-yard gain as Higgins burnt cornerback Darrell Baker Jr., forcing him to spin off-balance. Cincinnati whipped Indianapolis 20-0 in the second half, scoring two touchdowns in the span of 17 plays, whereas the Colts could get nothing to work on offense and gained just 17 total yards on eight plays, ending the third quarter with a three-and-out.
Indianapolis continued to unravel on special teams once Ameer Speed ran into Isaiah McKenzie, causing the punt returner to fumble and allowing the Bengals to take over inside the red zone. The Colts spoiled any last opportunity to make the game competitive following consecutive penalties, which backed up the first-&-goal to the 25-yard line. Minshew made matters worse, throwing an errant pass that bounced off Hendrickson into the air and was intercepted a foot off the turf by Bengals’ defensive tackle B.J. Hill.
Indianapolis (7-6) hosts Pittsburgh (7-6) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 15 next Saturday.