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NFL [Week-8] Game
Colts vs Bengals Live Stream
Date : Sunday, October 29, 2017
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For the Indianapolis Colts, it’s about making progress in the playoffs after reaching the divisional round last season. For the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s about quarterback Andy Dalton finally getting his first playoff victory.
So something will have to give when the Colts and Bengals meet at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday in their playoff matchup.
The Colts blanked the Bengals 27-0 back in October, and now Cincinnati is seeking redemption for that embarrassing performance.
ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and Bengals reporter Coley Harvey discuss the playoff matchup.
Wells: The Colts say the Bengals are a completely different team from the one they beat 27-0 back in October. What is the biggest difference with them since then?
Harvey: Two words: Jeremy Hill. One more: Embarrassment. The day after the Bengals were blown out, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson flogged himself in his office in front of reporters for moving too quickly from the running game in the shutout. Cincinnati ran the ball just 12 times for 32 yards. A large part of the reason the Bengals moved away from the run was they got down by so much so early in the game. The run also wasn’t having great success, but as he put it that Monday afternoon, had they been more “stubborn” with it, perhaps something would have popped. In the weeks since, something has. The Bengals rank second in rushing yards since the week after the shutout, with Hill pacing their ground attack. The offensive-rookie-of-the-year candidate finished with 1,124 yards, just 5 yards shy of the franchise record for rushing yards in a single season by a rookie. Since Week 9, when he began emerging as a bigger piece of the Bengals’ offense, Hill has rushed for 929 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that’s the most of any running back in the league; better than Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray. Jackson told me earlier this week he felt embarrassed by the Colts game, which he said was by far the worst game he’d ever been a part of, so this is an offense desperate to prove it has grown since the shutout.
In the previous meeting, the Colts seemed to know exactly what the Bengals were running on offense. Giovani Bernard got blown up twice on back-to-back screens, and even a trick play involving Mohamed Sanu was snuffed out. What did the Colts say about how well they understood Cincinnati’s offense in that game?
Wells: No offense to the rest of the receivers on the Bengals’ roster, but the Colts knew Cincinnati’s success would be dictated by its running backs since receiver A.J. Green did not play that game. The 32 rushing yards the Colts gave up that afternoon was their best performance by almost 50 yards this season. The Bengals also caught the Colts at the wrong time because they were in the midst of a winning streak and their confidence was sky-high. You can expect the Colts to prepare the same way with Green not active on Sunday.
How much does the offense change, if it changes at all, with Green out?
Harvey: Honestly, not as much as people might think, Mike. Remember, this is a team that played parts of four games this season — including the October game at Lucas Oil Stadium — without Green. While the offense may not have looked all that good without Green in the game against the Colts, it was impressive against the Falcons, Panthers and Ravens. The Bengals scored an average 29.3 points without the Pro Bowl wideout in those games. With Green out, you’ll see Sanu enjoy a bigger role after the team has sort of turned away from him in recent weeks. You’ll also see fellow receivers Brandon Tate and James Wright (he’s expected to return from a knee injury this week) have a few catches. Tight end Jermaine Gresham has been catching passes both with and without Green in the lineup. Bernard’s mission will be to draw a slower linebacker or two into coverage at times this weekend. On top of that, you’ll see Hill pounding the ball on the ground. Green’s absence could limit the Bengals’ play-action opportunities and effectiveness, but it shouldn’t change much else.
The Bengals’ defense likes making opposing offenses one-dimensional. The Colts already are with a fairly poor run game. What are the odds Indianapolis changes things up and tries to catch the Bengals off guard by mixing in better and more effective runs this week?
Wells: The problem is the Colts no longer have a running game. Just like with the defense, the Bengals caught the Colts at the wrong time in October. They rushed for 171 yards and it even looked like Trent Richardson was going to have his first 100-yard rushing game with the Colts before leaving early with a hamstring injury. The little running game they had vanished when Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season with a fractured fibula in November. The Colts hit rock bottom in the run game when they rushed for 1 yard (you read that correctly) on 10 attempts against Dallas in Week 16. It’s gotten so bad that they basically had an audition at running back with Richardson, Daniel “Boom” Herron and Zurlon Tipton in the season finale against the Tennessee Titans last weekend. Indianapolis will only go as far as quarterback Andrew Luck will take them with his arm. You can expect the Colts to throw the ball as much as possible. Luck threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting. The Bengals might want to rethink how they approach Luck and the passing game. They only blitzed on six of his 45 dropbacks in the first game. He was 5-of-5 for 83 yards and a touchdown when they did, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
I can’t get through this without asking a question about Dalton and his postseason struggles. Is it the opponents he’s faced or is this a mental issue with him?
Harvey: Dalton’s postseason struggles are probably one of the most overhyped storylines in sports. Yes, he’s played awful in the playoffs. But he isn’t alone. Want to know one reason it might not be so bad for the Bengals with Green out? These numbers: 13 catches, 32 targets, 161 yards, no touchdowns. That’s Green’s stat line in three postseason losses. Though the quarterback is a very big part of any team’s playoff success, he isn’t the only part. In those three playoff games, all of which came with Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator, the Bengals passed (123 times) more than twice the plays in which they ran (60). Part of that was a function of getting down early. Part of it, like last year’s unexpected home loss to San Diego, was also a function of not being stubborn enough or trusting enough of the run. During the news conference introducing him as the new offensive coordinator days after the playoff loss, Jackson repeatedly said he’d run the football. If he does, he can help relieve some of the pressure on Dalton. To answer your question, this isn’t a mental issue with Dalton — although continued losing doesn’t help. This has been all about inadequate schemes and a lack of help from his star teammate.
How much does Luck thrive on these kinds of stages? All week I’ve thought about last season’s miracle comeback he led in the wild-card round game against the Chiefs.
Wells: Luck’s performance against the Chiefs last season significantly overshadowed how poor his overall playoff numbers were. He’s thrown eight interceptions and six touchdowns in three playoff games. Luck is the first quarterback to throw at least eight interceptions in his first three playoff games since Dan Fouts did it in the 1979-80 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Seven of those interceptions came against the Chiefs and Patriots last season. Part of the problem is that the Colts trailed by double digits in both those games, so it was obvious they were going to throw the ball, which favored the defense. Luck’s competitiveness also gets him in trouble at times. Rather than take a sack or throw the ball away, he believes he can make a play that’s really not there. There’s more pressure on Luck this year than in his first two seasons because the Colts, as I mentioned earlier, don’t have a running game and their goal is to continue to climb the AFC ladder. So with that said, they need to reach at least the AFC championship in order to consider this season a success.