The Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts came into the day occupying the last Wild Card spot in the AFC, with the Bengals on the outside looking in. Cincinnati needed a win to keep their hopes of the postseason well and alive.
The Bengals deferred till the second half, and the game started with Trey Hendrickson and BJ Hill combining for a seven-yard sack. Unfortunately, for the first few drives, that was about the best play by either team. Germaine Pratt also was able to help corral running back Zach Moss in the backfield for a three-yard loss.
It was the Bengals' second drive where we finally saw some offensive fireworks as Jake Browning hit rookie running back Chase Brown for a 54-yard catch and run on a screen pass. He only had one man to beat as he saw the green grass in front of him after he caught the pass. It was the rookie's first touchdown of his career.
Gardner Minshew orchestrated a drive that took Indianapolis inside Cincinnati’s 30, but kicker Matt Gay banged a 28-yard field goal off the left upright no good. That kept the score at 7-0, good guys.
The Bengals got another explosive play off a running back screen. This time, it was Joe Mixon who was able to make a couple of people miss on his way for a 45-yard scamper inside the Colts 20. The drive did stall, and Evan McPherson hit the field goal, but Indianapolis was called for a leverage penalty that gave the Bengals a first down.
From there, Mixon was able to power it in from the one-yard line for Cincinnati’s second touchdown of the game. The Bengals led 14-0 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half.
Cincinnati initially forced a 3-and-out on Indianapolis’ next drive, but a roughing the passer penalty on Hendrickson gave them a first down. From there, Minshew was able to hit some tough throws to get a few first downs before running back Zach Moss took over behind the offensive line to grind out some tough yards inside the red zone. The Bengals defense forced a 4th-and-1 at their own two-yard line.
The Colts went for it with a play-action pass that went to tight end Mo-Allie Cox for the touchdown, but Gay missed the point afterward. Cincinnati led 14-6 after the 8:22 drive came to an end, leaving just under two minutes for the Bengals to work with.
It didn’t take long for the Colts to get back in the end zone. Browning attempted to hit tight end Tanner Hudson in a 2-minute drill, but the tight end ended up just tipping it right into safety Ronnie Harrison’s hands — after the ball was slightly more inside than Hudson anticipated — for an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Then Minshew converted the 2-point conversion to even the game up before halftime.
Browning came out on fire to start the second half. He was able to hit Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, both in tight windows, before eventually getting Hudson in the end zone for his first touchdown as a Bengal. Both players erase their mistake from before halftime to get up 21-14.
The defense got a stop to get Browning the ball back, and he had the hot hand still. A huge 46-yard gain to Higgins down the sideline led them well into Colts territory. Zac Taylor also decided to go for it on a 4th-and-1 at the four-yard line, and Mixon was able to convert and get the ball on the goal line. Browning took it himself in for his second rushing touchdown in two weeks. Cincinnati took a two-touchdown lead with roughly three minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Bengals defense took quick care of the Colts offense. However, disaster struck on the next drive for Cincinnati, who was forced to go to the locker room with an apparent injury to his right thumb. AJ McCarron (yes, that AJ McCarron) came in as his replacement. They punted the ball near midfield, but the Colts' return team muffed the punt, and the Bengals recovered.
Cincinnati had a touchdown to Higgins called back due to an offensive pass interference. The Bengals still were able to add a field goal to make it a three-score game with just over 11 minutes in the game.
The Colts were able to quickly move the ball into the red zone the following drive. They did have a touchdown called back due to a holding call. That proved to be costly as Hendrickson was able to get Minshew’s arm and impact that pass. It got deflected straight up into the air, and Hill was able to dive under the pass and intercept it. Cincinnati went 3-and-out after that with 7:47 left to play.
Hendrickson put an exclamation point on the game by sacking Minshew on fourth down inside Colt’s territory still up three scores. Cincinnati was able to get it down to the 2-minute warning and add a McPherson field goal for a 34-14 lead.
From there, the Colts put in their backups, and Browning and Cincinnati walked away with a win.
The Bengals and Browning have now won two straight games to keep their playoff hopes alive. This is what this team should be able to do without Joe Burrow. It obviously impacts their championship aspirations, but this team is filled with great players. We saw that with Brown having another fantastic game, scoring the early touchdown, and Hendrickson dominating the line of scrimmage.
Browning again showed a ton of resilience after the pick-six before halftime to tie the game at 14. However, he came out and quickly drove them to two straight touchdown drives to help put this game out of reach early. The defense also gets a hat tip, really stepping it up time and time again.
Cincinnati will host the Minnesota Vikings next week on Saturday, as they still have a small margin for error if the playoffs are still on their mind.