The offensive struggles not only continued against the Bengals, but were even worse. Gardner Minshew looked as jumpy as he has the past five games, the offensive line, especially Bernhard Raimann, could not hold a block more than two seconds, and the running game had their worst game this season against what was literally the worst run defense in the NFL.
Games like this one, where simply everything that can go wrong actually does tend to happen in the NFL, and no team, no matter how good or bad, are exempt from this. Look no further than the Texans who lost 6-30 against the Jets yesterday, or the Detroit Lions who lost to the Chicago Bears. The thing I want to see from Steichen is how the team rebounds from this type of performance, which I am not putting entirely on him.
What I am faulting Steichen on is the lack of creativity and usage of the run game. Moss had 13 carries, most of which came on RPOs. There was no intent to run the ball down the Bengals’ throat, and I get some of that was because the Colts were trailing most of the game but still, a team with such a talented offensive line and a running back like Zack Moss should be able to find ways to run the ball, and even if the Bengals “focused on the run game and forced Minshew to beat them” (I am sick and tired of hearing that excuse), it still should have been much better than 13 carries for 28 yards.
Defense / Special Teams
The defense just seemed unprepared and sluggish against an offense that was missing their starting quarterback. Not to take anything away from Jake Browning who had an impressive game, but the Colts’ defense, now with Grover Stewart back on the field, should have been much better than what they put on the field on Sunday.
Darrell Baker Jr. was picked on a bit by Browning, Mixon had a productive game on the ground, and the Colts’ pass-rush was just non-existent, recording zero sacks and just three quarterback hits on 24 passing attempts by the Bengals. This unit still needs a premier pass-rusher (please Josh Allen would be a dream come true) that can take over games consistently. Samson Ebukam is a bit streaky in my opinion, and it is evident by now that Kwity Paye is just not a productive pass-rusher. Julius Brents was also sorely missed, and the Colts’ thin secondary was exposed throughout the game.
Special teams, a week after being perhaps the biggest reason the Colts won last Sunday against the Titans, had perhaps the worst day in the past three seasons. First of all a Taven Bryan flag on a short field goal attempt gave the Bengals a new set of downs in the red-zone, which they took full advantage of and scored a touchdown. Matt Gay then missed two consecutive kicks, first a field goal under 40 yards, and then an extra point attempt. The icing on the cake was Amir Speed back-pedalling into Isaiah McKenzie resulting in a muffed punt which the Bengals recovered.
I don’t think it deserves an F because the coaches are not to blame for individual mistakes like Matt Gay missing easy field goals, Taven Bryan commiting a dumb penalty, or any of the aforementioned mistakes, but they do deserve a terrible grade because the team looked unprepared and lazy, two unforgivable sins when playing such an important game in the AFC playoff race.