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Knee-jerk reactions: Colts’ Mistake-filled afternoon leads to 34-14 loss to Bengals

The Indianapolis Colts lose to the Cincinnati Bengals 34-14 in Week 14.

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In perhaps their worst performance of the 2023 season, the Indianapolis Colts got in their own way one too many times in a 34-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon. Additionally, the Colts’ winning streak was snapped, as they fall to 7-6 on the season with a big matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 15.

COLTS’ DEFENSE COMMITS TOO MANY MISTAKES IN WORST PERFORMANCE OF SEASON

Cincinnati’s offense had their way against the Colts’ defense all afternoon long. Outside of linebacker Ronnie Harrison’s pick-six in the second quarter, Bengals quarterback Jake Browning and Co. moved the ball at will, piling up 385 total yards of offense, including 274 passing yards from Browning. Browning completed 18-of-24 passes and had three total touchdowns (one rushing, two passing).

Entering Sunday, the Colts had accumulated 21 sacks in their last three games but failed to record one against Browning, allowing the Bengals to pick apart Indy’s defense with screen passes that led to big gains and other chunk plays. A 14-0 lead for the Bengals in the first quarter set the tone early on. Despite Indianapolis managing to tie the game at 14 going into halftime, the Bengals drove it down the field and had back-to-back touchdown drives, extending their lead to 28-14 in the third quarter. The Bengals would ultimately put up 34 points in their convincing victory.

Indy’s defense also committed some untimely penalties that led to points for the Bengals in the red zone. As a team, the Bengals rushed for 111 yards total, including 79 from running back Joe Mixon, who also scored a touchdown. The Colts’ defense had been playing much better as of late, but Sunday was an uncharacteristic performance at the wrong time. If you’re wanting to make the playoffs in a crowded AFC picture, showings like what Indy’s defense had Sunday simply cannot happen.

COLTS’ OFFENSE STRUGGLES TO MOVE BALL AGAINST POORLY RANKED CINCINNATI DEFENSE

Similarly, the Colts’ offense struggled to move the ball all afternoon. Despite Cincinnati’s defense having poor rankings coming into the game, they bottled up veteran quarterback Gardner Minshew and the rest of Indianapolis’ offense. Key penalties in the red zone certainly didn’t help, even when Indianapolis was able to move the ball. A missed field goal from kicker Matt Gay, who has been excellent for the Colts this season, was critical after Indy’s offense was able to march down the field and get into scoring position in the first quarter.

The Colts’ offensive line struggled to open up running lanes for Zack Moss and surrendered three sacks as well. Moss, again, had a poor performance for a second straight week, as he only managed to rush for 28 yards on 13 attempts. As a unit, the Colts averaged just 2.6 yards per rush, which is by far one of their worst rushing totals on the season. It’s hard for any NFL team to have any form of consistent offensive success when the ground game is as poor as Indy’s was Sunday.

As a whole, Sunday’s performance for the Colts’ offense was easily their worst of the season, with only seven points to show on what limited drives they had success with. Quarterback Gardner Minshew completed 26-of-39 passes for 240 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Colts are going to have to figure out how to create more of a productive rushing attack, especially with star back Jonathan Taylor sidelined for the foreseeable future.