Giving Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson the night off on Thursday allowed safety Taylor Mays to start and accumulate plenty of snaps against the Indianapolis Colts. This was a great opportunity for the second-year player out of Southern California to showcase his abilities at Paul Brown Stadium. Truth be told, Mays had a solid night, save for an early pass interference that led to an early Colts lead. Let's highlight the night with one detour on a Gibril Wilson play in the first quarter.
The 44-Yard Pass Interference Penalty on Taylor Mays... During Indianapolis' first offensive play of the game, with double-tight formation, Kerry Collins fakes the handoff on a stretch to the left and looks downfield. David Gilreath, wide left, runs vertical down the numbers. Cornerback Jonathan Wade, initially covering Gilreath before the snap, was either assigned the underneath zone or the play-action sucked him in so much that covering the Colts receiver was impossible at this point. Either way Mays turned and ran with the receiver. As the floating pass neared, Mays didn't bother turning his head to find the ball; instead running into the receiver committing a 44-yard penalty that eventually led to an early 3-0 Colts lead.
The four-yard loss by Gibril Wilson... With 5:11 remaining in the first quarter, the Colts lined up with three-wide, single-back formation. Safety Gibril Wilson stood one yard off the line of scrimmage, outside of Frostee Rucker on the left. Collins hands off to running back Delone Carter, aiming towards the right side of the offensive line. Wilson locked into battle with tight end Jacob Tamme while Rucker side-stepped right tackle Jeffrey Linkenbach, avoiding the block entirely. Rucker taking away the point of attack, forced Carter to bounce outside where Wilson waited, finally shedding the block to establish contact, ripping the ball carrier to the ground with help from Rucker.
The Taylor Mays deflection... After Taj Smith posted a 22-yard reception (beating Morgan Trent) that converted a third-and-14, the Colts line up at midfield with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter. Kerry Collins in shotgun with Delone Carter to his left, center Jeff Saturday snaps the football. Jacob Tamme, wide left outside of the slot receiver David Gilreath, runs a slant towards the Bengals 45-yard line before breaking out. Some of your more experienced Bengals fans will recognize the route as one that T.J. Houshmandzadeh ran frequently.
Taylor Mays broke on the pass as Tamme stopped and spun towards the left sidelines. Mays jumped the route, slapping the football away with his right hand. The Bengals would force the Colts to turn the football over two plays later after an incomplete pass that was originally ruled a Jonathan Wade interception followed with a Michael Johnson forced fumble that was recovered by Frostee Rucker.
The Taylor Mays One-Yard Tackle... By the time the Colts began their first possession in the second quarter, the Bengals had tied the game with a Mike Nugent 25-yard field goal. Over 13 minutes remained when the Colts lined up from their own 21-yard line with nine yards to go on second down. Running back Donald Brown flanked Kerry Collins' left in shotgun.
Just before the snap, Mays approached the line of scrimmage with safety Gibril Wilson shifting into cover one position, playing center field with single-coverage across the board. Mays' assignment? The running back. Collins receives the snap while Brown flairs out of the left flats; Mays shadows. Brown receives the pass six yards behind the line of scrimmage, where Mays breaks down. Brown jukes right. Mays mirrors. Brown looks to his left towards the sidelines. Mays allows it, which essentially prevents the running back to cutback, instead leaving him the sidelines where little room remained. Mays drops Brown after a one-yard gain out of bounds. An incomplete pass later and the Colts punt.
Pat Sims disrupted another Taylor Mays play... With 4:18 remaining in the first half, the Colts, down by seven points, sit at their own 41-yard line on first down. Kerry Collins goes under center, with double-tight formation and Donald Brown in the backfield. By the time Brown received the handoff, Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims bullied center Jeff Saturday two yards deep into the backfield. Brown cuts to his left, countered by Sims, who ripped his arm across Saturday freeing him from the block in perfect position for the tackle.
If Sims didn't make the tackle, Brown would have faced Taylor Mays, who was roaming free, inside the running lane. Sims began driving Brown backwards and Taylor sprinted up to give Sims support; not that he needed it. Taylor buries a shoulder into someone wearing white anyway.
Taylor Mays' night comes to an end... With 14 yards to go on second down and 3:39 remaining in the first half, the Colts lined up with trips to the left at their own 37-yard line. Mays is playing center field, 15 yards from the line of scrimmage -- which suggests Cover One. Taj Smith drops back in a bubble screen to haul in the pass. The Bengals defense, notably Manny Lawson, recognize the play and breaks through the line of scrimmage untouched forcing Smith to reverse towards the other side of the field. Only two players were in position to make the stop; Morgan Trent who was at the line of scrimmage to take away cutback lanes and Mays playing center field.
Smith finally crossed the line of scrimmage as he began edging out towards the right sidelines while Trent was disrupted on a block. Mays' angled pursuit forced Smith to keep stretching towards the sidelines, blocking any lanes upfield. As a last resort before the play was realistically over, Smith momentarily faked upfield to buy himself time; Mays wasn't having any of it. Three yards past the line of scrimmage and Mays had two handfuls of jersey, releasing and wrapping Smith around the waist, spinning him to the ground. What could have been a massive gain by the Colts, ended with only a six-yard run.
The play would end Mays' night, who remained on a knee for a while before leaving the game. Later that night he said that his right knee was fine and should be ready for the regular season opener.