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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cody Manning

5 takeaways from Colts’ 34-14 loss to Bengals

Today was not the day for the Indianapolis Colts in their blowout loss on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals.

All three phases of the game disappointed and played a major factor in the dominating win by Cincy. The Indy offense struggled to find a rhythm, the defense got gashed on screen plays and played flat for the majority of the game, and the special teams left points off the board as well as muffed a punt.

This was a crucial loss by the Colts but with other teams across the AFC in the playoff hunt losing this week as well, they still can control their fate in the final four weeks.

But for now, here are five takeaways from the dreadful Week 14 loss from Indianapolis:

Run game was non-existent

Phil Didion/ USA Today Sports Network via The Cincinnati Enquirer

Entering this matchup, the Bengals were allowing the fifth-most rushing YPG (133.9), but today it was their defensive line that was dominating the trenches. Zack Moss had no room to work with throughout the afternoon.

The Cincy defensive front did an outstanding job at keeping the rushing lanes tight and bottling up Moss at the LOS. Moss managed 2.2 YPC on 13 attempts.

This led to a lot of long third-down situations for the Indy offense which they struggled to convert. On a day when the passing attack was inconsistent, the inability to run the ball put the offense in too many third-and-long situations.

Of the 19 first downs they picked up, only four of those were from rushes, and the offense was 3-of-11 on third downs. If the Colts are going to make a strong push for the postseason then they have to get their rushing attack back on track next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

RB Screens were a killer

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Indy defense missed E.J. Speed’s presence in defending RB screens in this matchup. On Cincy’s second drive of the game, Chase Brown took a screen for a 54-yard touchdown to give the Bengals the first score.

On the following drive for the Cincinnati offense, it got sparked with a screen to Joe Mixon who took it 45 yards to get into the Colts’ territory. The Bengals would end up scoring their second touchdown of the game.

Brown would get one more screen where he picked up 25 yards in the second half. Those three plays were responsible for 124 of Jake Brownings’ 275 passing yards.

The two first-half screens were responsible for 99 of Browning’s 135 passing yards he had by halftime. This will need to be a focus by Gus Bradley because I am sure this will be something that the Pittsburgh Steelers will attempt next Saturday.

Trey Hendrickson was a game-wrecker

Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Year 2 has been a strong showing for Bernhard Raimann but he had his roughest performance of the season going up against Trey Hendrickson. He got things kicked off on the first play of the game with his first sack that put the Colts in a hole they couldn’t climb out of and went three-and-out.

Hendrickson would end up making a game-sealing play early in the fourth quarter. With the Colts quickly moving the ball to get a comeback attempt started, he beat Raimann to hit Gardner Minshew to force his throw to get deflected off his lineman, and the ball went right into B.J. Hill’s hands.

Hendrickson finished the game with two tackles (two solo), two TFLs, two QB hits, two sacks, and a pass defense. It won’t get any easier for Raiman and whoever gets the start at right tackle facing a Steelers defense next week that features T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.

Where was the pass rush?

Robert Scheer/IndyStar

The Indy defensive front entered this game on a hot streak but it came to a screeching halt against a Bengals offense that was tied for the eighth-most sacks allowed entering Week 14. Jake Browning had all the time he needed to work in the pocket because he saw little to no pressure throughout the contest.

By halftime. the Colts had zero sacks and two QB hits. They needed that part of their defense to step up in the second half and they failed to deliver. By the end of the game, they still had zero sacks and finished with three QB hits.

The lack of pressure on Browning allowed him to sit back and take what the defense gave him which led to their four touchdown drives. After no showing in Week 14, the strength of the Indy defense has to have a better showing in Week 15.

Special teams miscues

Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

As I mentioned, this loss was on all three phases of the game for the Colts. Matt Gay easily had his worst showing in his first season with the franchise. After the Bengals scored their first touchdown, Indy was able to get in field goal range to make it a 7-3 game but Gay’s 38-yard attempt hit the left upright.

On the following drive for the offense, they would end up getting their first touchdown of the game but Gay shanked his PAT attempt. It wasn’t just Gay who had a miscue on special teams.

Early in the fourth quarter, Indianapolis was about to get the ball back down 28-14 but Ameer Speed ended up running into Isaiah McKenzie to cause him to muff the punt. The Bengals would end up getting a field goal because of that to make it a three-score game.

These are the types of mistakes that will hurt the Colts’ chances at the postseason if they don’t get them cleaned up this week in practice.

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