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Bengals take fans on roller coaster of emotions in win over Colts

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The Cincinnati Bengals took their time claiming momentum from Indianapolis, but once the second half came around, the Bengals took control and beat the Colts.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to know about the roller coaster of emotions Bengals fans endure during a typical game, read someone’s timeline on Twitter (or the open threads on this site). Our emotional range touches on a spectrum that peaks the interest of mental health specialists — optimism, hope, frustration, and anger, all in a single expression.

Andy Dalton’s first pass of the season led to a Kenny Moore interception, setting the Colts up at the Bengals’ seven-yard line.

Seriously? Of course I’m angry. Freakin’ Andy Dalton. Learn how to quarterback.

It wasn’t entirely his fault, to be fair. Billy Price and Bobby Hart struggled Sunday and Dalton faced significant pressure — he was sacked two times and hit an additional three. However, he doesn’t need to make something happen out of nothing.

Preston Brown intercepted Andrew Luck three plays later.

Oh. Now we’re happy.

Cincinnati’s offense pieced together a 10-play drive midway into the first quarter, led by a 29-yard Tyler Eifert catch and 21-yard Joe Mixon reception to the Colts’ 32-yard line. Eventually the drive stalled, but Cincinnati scored first with a 42-yard Randy Bullock field goal with 8:20 remaining in the first.

Satisfied... like a Snickers bar.

Sadly, we endured a lot bad in the first half. Andrew Luck dinked-and-dunked passes with relative ease, most barely traversing 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Cincinnati’s linebackers appeared to have minimal awareness and even less influence in coverage. Indianapolis took advantage while Luck completed 20 passes for 170 yards. The Bengals’ pass rush was nonexistent, largely because Luck employed a quick release.

Indianapolis converted six of their first eight third down opportunities in the first half, and converted three drives of 60 yards or more. Around the three-minute mark in the first half, the Colts were dominating, even if the 13-3 score didn’t explicitly describe it.

Frustrated. Here we go again.

Then the Bengals did something we didn’t expect: They adjusted with a no-huddle, speed-oriented two-minute offense. Granted, it was literally around the two minute warning but they’d incorporate into the second half too. Joe Mixon starts Cincinnati’s charge with a 27-yard sprint to the Colts’ 39-yard line with 2:19 remaining in the second. Then the Colts were called for a defensive pass interference, where the Bengals chipped away at Indianapolis’s lead with a John Ross touchdown — his first and only NFL reception for now.

Happy.

At one point early in the third quarter, Indianapolis pieced together a 60-yard touchdown drive that expanded their lead to a 23-10 advantage.

Anger. Concession. Things will never change. #FireMarvin.

Out of nowhere, Andy Dalton slings a 39-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 1:54 remaining in the third. Wait, what? Despite a 23-17 deficit, momentum for Cincinnati was shifting. You could feel it.

Now we’re otimistic. Hopeful.

Cincinnati took control with a commanding second-half performance, outscoring Indianapolis 24-7 in second half and 17-0 in the fourth quarter. Did the Bengals actually make second-half adjustments? Did Marvin Lewis gameplan for the second half of the contest based on what transpired in the first half?

You likely know this has been a major frustration for Bengals fans for the last 15 years. But the Bengals looked vastly different in the second half than they did in the first half on Sunday. And it wasn’t coincidental.

Cincinnati claimed a 24-23 lead with 11:10 remaining in the fourth on Joe Mixon’s one-yard touchdown; Sam Hubbard blocked from the fullback position while Jake Fisher lined up at tight end (I’m sure that’ll come into play later this year). After a Randy Bullock 39-yard field goal and a Clayton Fejedelem 83-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery, Cincinnati secured its 34-23 win over the Colts.

What could have been a Colts blowout ended with a commanding Bengals second-half victory. Joe Mixon generated 149 yards from scrimmage, Tyler Eifert picked up 44 yards receiving and forced a pass interference, while Dalton submitted a very Dalton-like performance (efficient, with a few mistakes). Billy Price was disappointing, but he deserves several mulligans as a rookie. Bobby Hart isn’t a rookie, and made a significant argument for Jake Fisher to replace him. Ryan Glasgow was impressive, Darqueze Dennard was physical, and Fejedelem, who replaced an ejected Shawn Williams, calmed my overall concerns about depth in the secondary.

Sunday was a different kind of win; the Bengals persevered when they were down. And when they commandeered the lead, Cincinnati placed its cleats on Indianapolis’s throat. If this is the Bengals in 2018, this will be an interesting season.