I want to be angry.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the Bengals have been bounced from the postseason in the first round, and the fifth time in the last six years -- one-and-done (Jets), one-and-done (Texans), one-and-done (Texans), one-and-done (Chargers), one-and-done (Colts). Perhaps the Bengals need to run the gauntlet of every AFC team before claiming that elusive first postseason win since Jan. 6, 1991.
Yet let's face facts... this is who the Cincinnati Bengals are and all they're capable of. If you're satisfied to be a participant in the postseason, this team is for you. If you want something more, than I'm not sure what can be offered for resolution. It's almost like a television show that you love to hate but the episodes, once exciting and brimming with anticipation, spin in the mud of boredom with "see it once, seen 'em all" aggravation.
I want to be angry.
I should be angry.
Cincinnati's pass rush against a patchwork offensive line was shockingly embarrassing, even with weighted contracts signed by several on the defensive line, while the team insists on relying on a handful of undrafted free agents at linebacker and aging first-rounders in the secondary. Eventually the Bengals lost Rey Maualuga to a hamstring Sunday, who was replaced by rookie Marquis Flowers, who himself was fighting through an ankle injury. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick also had an ankle issue but eventually returned, and then left again.
The Bengals offense, without wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham, had nothing for the Indianapolis Colts. Some of us will excuse Cincinnati's offense, which is fine. Unfortunately the NFL isn't going to wait on injured players to get healthy to stage another rematch.
The Bengals have scored points of 17, 10, 13, 10, and 10 points in the last five playoff games.
A loss is a loss... no matter how many propositions you want to excuse for the Bengals. On the other hand, there is truth to it as well. They also didn't have wide receiver Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert all season. Green and Gresham were gone after their injuries against the Steelers. Andy Dalton is as bland as a manilla folder that collapses against the face of adversity, but we're not blaming him for much Sunday.
Rightfully, the Colts focused on Jeremy Hill, aware that the ordinary Hue Jackson wouldn't draw up anything creative while restricted by the dictation of the game's flow and the excuses of missing stars. Eventually, Hill would make sporadic second half appearance.
I should be angry.
I am angry.
Yet, I'm shocked and by extension, not really that angry. I expected this. For as much as we want to dictate ridiculous amounts of faith in a team that doesn't deserve it, Cincinnati folds in pressure situations.
That continues to be the narrative.
Sure Cincinnati defeated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos during Week 16 on Monday Night Football. That was an accomplishment, but more of an aberration, rather than some redefining moment that we had hoped for. With an opportunity to win the AFC North last week, they are defeated on Sunday Night Football thanks to an A.J. Green fumble when the Bengals were piecing together a game-winning drive.
Pressure. Adversity. Collapse.
This is who they are.
COLTS WITH EARLY MOMENTUM AND BENGALS TIE TO END FIRST QUARTER
Predictably, the Cincinnati Bengals featured Michael Strahan-sized gaps in coverage while offering little resistance against the run. Indianapolis opened the afternoon with an impressive 71-yard touchdown drive that began on their own 29-yard line. Within nine plays and nearly four minutes, the Colts took a 7-0 lead on Dan Herron's two-yard touchdown drive.
Adam Jones and Geno Atkins going at it after Colts touchdown. https://t.co/bZbiS7mIXf— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) January 4, 2015
Each exchanged punts from Pro Bowl punters before Cincinnati's offense resumed from their own 26-yard line with 5:54 remaining in the first. Eventually, with help from a Jeremy Hill 18-yard run to the Colts, the Bengals had third and four from the Colts 31-yard line with 3:06 remaining. Dalton hit Rex Burkhead, who gained 26 yards to the Colts five-yard line.
Burkhead w/ 26 yard reception to convert third and four. Reach Colts five yard line. https://t.co/ULjIPsu2Nm— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) January 4, 2015
Two plays later, Jeremy Hill jumped into the endzone to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:28 remaining in the first.
COLTS EXTEND 13-7 EARLY MIDWAY THROUGH SECOND
Indianapolis opened their ensuing possession with 1:28 remaining in the first from their own nine-yard line. With relative ease against an injured Bengals defense, the Colts navigated downfield until they reach the Bengals 20-yard line. Needing 10 yards to convert the third down, Andrew Luck instead targeted Reggie Wayne in the back of the endzone, Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick forced the incomplete pass.
Great play by Dre to deflect the pass in the endzone and force the FG. Colts lead 10-7 w/ 12:41 in the second. https://t.co/cCjVeJFF1j— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) January 4, 2015
With 10:12 remaining in the second, Andrew Luck found Hakeem Nicks on a 45-yard completion... the receiver turned around and jumped to haul in the football while George Iloka kept his back turned. Unable to generate another first down, Adam Vinatieri extended Indianapolis' lead 13-7 with 8:34 remaining in the second.
DARQUEZE DENNARD FUMBLE LEADS TO 57-YARD FIELD GOAL AND 20-13 COLTS LEAD
With two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Colts had second and 18 at their own 48-yard line -- Margus Hunt sacked Andrew Luck, which allowed the clock to reach the two minute warning.
Andrew Luck dumped off to Herron, who avoided a handful of tackles down the left sidelines. Darqueze Dennard, coming from behind near the Bengals 35-yard line, tomahawk chopped the football away from Herron. The football was recovered by Reggie Nelson.
Cincinnati reached the Colts 39-yard line where Mike Nugent crushed a franchise-setting 57-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts have released their respective inactive lists and, as we approached the deadline Sunday's deadline, we had a certain understanding on who would be available.
Wide receivers A.J. Green (concussion) and James Wright (knee) were already declared out by Sunday morning -- Green was announced on Saturday, reportedly after a visit with an independent specialist. Green suffered a concussion with four minutes remaining against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Wright hasn't played since week 13 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a knee, though he worked with the wide receivers during pregame work.
Gresham suffered a back injury against the Steelers and sat during practice on Wednesday and Thursday with limited work on Friday. Observers noted that Gresham didn't look good during pregame workouts and joined Green and Wright on the team's inactive list.
Brandon Tate will replace Green as the starting wide receiver opposite of Mohamed Sanu and Kevin Brock will replace Jermaine Gresham as the starting tight end.
|WR A.J. Green||OL Hugh Thornton|
|TE Jermaine Gresham||OL A.Q. Shipley|
|DT Devon Still||OL Xavier Nixon|
|WR James Wright||DL Zach Kerr|
|QB AJ McCarron||LB Henoc Muamba|
|CB Chris Lewis-Harris||CB Sheldon Price|
|OT Tanner Hawkinson||CB Jalil Brown|
|WR James Wright||Concussion||DNP||DNP||DNP||OUT|
|WR A.J. Green||Concussion||DNP||LP||DNP||DOUBTFUL|
|TE Jermaine Gresham||Back||DNP||DNP||LP||Questionable|
|RB Cedric Peerman||Concussion||DNP||LP||LP||Questionable|
|OT Andrew Whitworth||Vet.||--||DNP||--||--|
|CB Leon Hall||Vet.||DNP||--||--||--|
|G Hugh Thornton||Shoulder||DNP||DNP||DNP||OUT|
|C A.Q. Shipley||Ankle||DNP||DNP||DNP||DOUBTFUL|
|RB Trent Richardson||Illness||--||--||DNP||Questionable|
|WR Joshua Cribbs||NIR||DNP||FP||FP||Probable|
|LB Erik Walden||Knee||LP||FP||FP||Probable|
|WR Reggie Wayne||Groin||LP||FP||DNP||Probable|
|LB Bjoern Werner||Shoulder||LP||FP||FP||Probable|
|TE Dwayne Allen||Knee||FP||FP||FP||Probable|
|LB Jerrell Freeman||Hamstring||FP||FP||FP||Probable|
|G Joe Reitz||Ankle||FP||FP||FP||Probable|
DNP - Did Not Participate
LP - Limited Participation
FP - Full Participation
Out = Player will not play
Doubtful = 25% chance a player will play
Questionable = 50% chance a player will play
Probable = 75% chance a player will play
(-) = Not Listed - No game status available