ReFo: Bengals @ Colts, Wild Card Round

Steve Palazzolo has a look at Luck, Dalton and other notable performers from the Colts-Bengals wild card matchup.

| 2 years ago

ReFo: Bengals @ Colts, Wild Card Round

2014-REFO-WC-CIN@INDWe’ve entered familiar territory for the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts as the Bengals continue their streak of one-and-dones in the playoffs while the Colts move to the Divisional Round for the second year in a row as they look to take the next step and reach the AFC Championship.

Indianapolis controlled the majority of the game behind a near-flawless performance by quarterback Andrew Luck who was on point all afternoon. On the other side, Cincinnati tried to piece together their offense that was devoid of wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham. They were unable to sustain drives while the Colts’ defense deserves credit for bringing the heat and playing solid coverage on the back end.

As the Bengals head toward another offseason of question marks, the Colts look to avoid an offseason of questions regarding their team’s ability to get past the divisional round. They head to Denver to take on the Broncos next week as they look to buck that trend.

Here’s a look at the key performances from this AFC Wild Card showdown.

Cincinnati Bengals – Performances of Note

Andy Dalton, QB: -4.1

Breakdown: It wasn’t the egregious mistake that did Dalton in this time, though his throwing a pass right to OLB Erik Walden at the 14:14 mark of the third quarter certainly qualifies as one, but this game was more about the Bengals’ inability to get anything going in the passing game from start to finish. The game plan was predictably conservative, but at some point, asking the quarterback “not to lose” has to evolve as the game changes course. There really weren’t a lot of inaccurate throws from Dalton that led to his -4.1 grade, but it was more about a lack of positives to point to as most of his completions came on easy, underneath routes and only 28.4% of his 155 passing yards came through the air. The loss of Green and Gresham certainly hurt, and the Colts played it tight in the secondary, but Dalton was unable to capitalize on the few opportunities he did have throughout the game.

Signature Stat: Dalton was 1-for-9 for 14 yards on passes thrown beyond 10 yards.

Eric Winston, RT: -6.0

Breakdown: Winton’s third start with the Bengals did not go smoothly as he allowed a sack, two hits, and two hurries on 42 attempts in pass protection while supplementing that with a -2.8 grade in the running game. He was also lost a few blocks in pass protection on plays that didn’t necessarily end up in pressure.

Signature Plays: Q3 10:07 Walden inside Winston and into Dalton’s face quickly for the hit on 3rd-and-5. Q1 8:22 Winston gets tossed aside by DE Cory Redding who gets in on the tackle on 2nd-and-10.

Adam Jones, CB: -4.4

Breakdown: Jones was just a step off in coverage throughout the game, or perhaps just the victim of Luck’s accuracy. He allowed WR T.Y. Hilton to sneak behind him on the corner route on the first play of the second quarter and later allowed Hilton to get separation on the quick out on the all-out blitz, though Hilton dropped the pass. He later whiffed on a tackle on WR Hakeem Nicks with 5:12 to go in the game.

Signature Stats: Jones allowed 5-of-7 passes to be caught for 53 yards, but both incompletions were drops.

Indianapolis Colts – Performances of Note

Andrew Luck, QB: +5.7

Breakdown: We’ve been saying for months, Luck makes as many big-time throws as any quarterback in the league – often supplementing them with a number of poor decisions and risky throws into coverage – but if he could eliminate the big mistakes, he’d finally take that next step into the conversation among the best quarterbacks in the league. This game was a perfect example as Luck peppered the field with incredibly accurate downfield throws while avoiding the head-scratchers that have plagued him in the past.

Among the highlights:

Q1 6:11: Luck beats the blitz and hits Hilton with a well-thrown corner route that is dropped.

Q1 0:18: Whether working back to his second read or simply looking off the safety, Luck shows pinpoint accuracy as he puts the ball right on TE Coby Fleener’s hands on the seam route, though the pass is once again dropped.

Q2 8:43: Facing an all-out blitz and pressure that gets there in 1.3 seconds, Luck shows a quick read-and-release to throw a strike to Hilton who drops the would-be third down conversion.

Q3 7:57  One of the best throws in the NFL all season, Luck escapes pressure, keeps his eyes downfield and hits WR Donte Montcrief 40 yards in the air without the wide receiver breaking stride, all while Luck was getting tackled by DE Carlos Dunlap.

The big question with Luck is not whether or not he can continue to make plays like this, it’s whether or not he can avoid the bad ones, and this game was a great example of what Luck will look like once he takes that next step.

Signature Stat: Luck was 10-for-16 for 195 yards and a +3.8 PFF grade on his 17 pressured drop-backs and he was 7-for-10 for 126 yards and a +4.6 grade against the blitz.

Khaled Holmes, C: -7.0

Breakdown: Holmes spent all too much time on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium, even beyond the sack and two hurries that he surrendered. Nose tackle Domato Peko tossed him aside at the 13:48 mark in the first quarter and DE Wallace Gilberry made quick work of him with 9:22 to go in the second, even though neither play resulted in a pressure. The sack came just before the two-minute warning in the first half as DT Geno Atkins discarded Holmes right off the snap. It was a long day for Holmes and one that needs to be righted as the Colts go up against a challenging group of defensive tackles in Denver next week.

Signature Plays:  Q2 5:07 Peko makes quick work of Holmes to get in on the run stop.

Erik Walden, OLB: +5.2 and Jerrell Freeman, ILB: +4.6

Breakdown: There were some excellent performances on defense for the Colts, including cornerback Vontae Davis’ +4.6, but Walden and Freeman were all over the field. Walden posted a +4.4 mark as a pass rusher as he had his way with Winston, picking up two hits and a hurry while Freeman made his mark as a blitzer with two sacks and a hurry on just 11 rushes. Freeman also led the team with 11 tackles and four run stops.

Signature Plays: Walden’s quick pressure at Q3 10:07 forced an inaccurate, quick throw from Dalton that was batted away by Davis. Freeman’s first sack came on a stunt around Winston at the 0:30 mark of the third quarter and he took advantage of a miscommunication up front by the Bengals, got a free run at Dalton, and forced the fumble for his second sack of the day with 2:56 to go in the game.

PFF Game Ball

There were a lot of strong performances by the Colts, but Andrew Luck put together one of his best games as a pro to earn this week’s game ball.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Chris

    When the Bengals have a carry ratio of at least 50% of Dalton’s pass attempts they are 9-1-1.

    When the Bengals have a carry ratio of less than 50% of Dalton’s pass attempts they are 1-5*.

    *includes the loss yesterday which was 46%.

    Not sure why Hill had 8 carries in the first 2 drives and then like 5 the rest of the game.

    • X x

      None of the drives in the 2nd half were producing he said so himself, you getting one and two yard gains on first down against a team that not scared of your passing attack, it’s not much you can do. Sure you can try to run again on second and 9-8 but if they are stacking the box you can’t expect much.

      I’m more concerned about Dalton inability to scan the field, at least this game. He barely looked Hamilton’s way and only receivers he was targeting was Sanu, Tate and Hewitt. Could be due to a lack of trust and/or chemistry with Little and Hamilton but you have to at least give them a shot.

      • Chris

        I get what you’re saying but here’s a comparison:

        1st quarter, 1st drive (0-7): 1st down run for 1 yard, 2nd down run for 8 yards.

        1st quarter, 2nd drive (0-7): 1st down incomplete pass, 2nd down run for 6 yards.

        Two instances where they ran on 2nd and long in the 1Q and picked up good chunks.

        3rd quarter, 1st drive (10-13): 1st down run for 3 yards, 2nd and 3rd down incomplete passes.

        3rd quarter, 3rd drive (10-20): 4 straight passes

        4th quarter, 1st drive (10-26): 4 straight passes

        4th quarter, 2nd drive (10-26): 6 straight passes

        4th quarter, 3rd drive (10-26): 6 straight passes

        It was still a game in the 3Q. 10-13, Bengals 3-and-outed but then forced the Colts to 3-and-out as well. The dumb unnecessary roughness pinned them to the 10 after that but they still ran it twice to set up 3rd and short.

        But the very next drive Indy scored to go up 20-10 and after that score they ran it once the rest of the game to 22 pass plays. It was like they totally abandoned the run after they went down 2 scores.

    • Jason Williams

      Because they’re the Bungles. And it’s the playoffs. 13 points is their high water in four playoff games in successive years. Good grief.

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Chris, I felt that this season was finished a long time ago. There were too many guys missing and Dalton’s confidence has been shot for the season at least. I didn’t see enough production with the run to warrant sticking with it once they fell behind. Gresham is an underrated blocker and I think that was the difference in the running game. Dalton can do some good things in the passing game. His deep ball sailed less and seemed improved earlier this year and he was making good adjustments at the line. He obviously didn’t finish the season that way. Maybe it is injuries, maybe he has taken a legitimate step back? He has shown enough to not be relegated to game manager for the rest of his career though.

      • Chris

        It is hard to write him off after that game with arguably his top 3 pass catchers out. But he hasn’t looked right for weeks. The running game had been working lately and it was working early. Just because you fall behind my 1 score doesn’t mean you abandon the run.

        Overall just a lack of playmakers in the passing game.

        • Riffle,Rod&Fly

          Fair enough. I still did not see much out of the running game early on aside from a decent 1st down run by Hill. Hill also appeared to have gotten banged up at some point. I probably need to rewatch it. I just remember an inability of the Bengals D to stop the Colts on 3rd down and the rate at which they were scoring was getting out of hand. The conservative offense did not seem sustainable; but that has been apparent for weeks now. The Broncos game provided a glimmer of hope but Peyton has his bad games and that appeared to be one of them.

  • Jay

    Such a disappointing Wild Card Weekend. It seems like all but 2 teams were missing Key Players. The Colts have lucked out the last two Wild Card Weekends with The Bengals and Chiefs being baraged by injuries.

  • Jason Williams

    Would you rather : Andy Dalton and AJ Green or Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall?

    • mutzki

      I haven’t seen a whole lot of Dalton, but i have seen enough of Cutler to answer that question with the Dalton/Green Combo.

    • bobrulz

      Cutler/Marshall for sure.

      Cutler is not a great QB but he’s better than Dalton, and Marshall is at least as good as Green (although of course Green likely has his best days of ahead of him still).

    • Jonathan Bennett

      Cutler/Marshall, with Dalton’s offensive line (which has been generally solid since he became the starter, while the Bears o-line has had one good year since the Cutler trade.)

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Cutler only sees far down the field and does not spread the ball around. This isn’t a great quality for an NFL QB, but he could better utilize a speedster like Green. If we’re playing hypothetical games Cutler/Green and Dalton/Marshall would be more intriguing combinations. I’d take Dalton due to his versatility. Dalton does occasionally pick apart defenses. Cutler, with his backyard ball style, can’t see close enough to himself to do that.

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Would you rather: Spend a 2nd rd pick on Dalton and make the 4 straight trips to the playoffs or take Manziel in the 1st rd and continue down your endless path of misery? Sorry, I couldn’t resist 😛

  • D

    Just remember, Luck is as good as Dalton, according to Troy Brown

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Who is Troy Brown? Luck is clearly better and is one of the best in this league. I like Dalton though and do not believe he is as bad as many say. This was Dalton’s first truly bad year and the media has gone unusually easy on him. Go figure. They must not like to see the Bengals win.

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    Dalton is playing scared in the later half of this season. There is a noticeable hesitation to throw and it appears that he is taking a lot longer to get the ball out. I don’t know if it is the injuries or this new offense. Still, I think this grade is unfair. I did not see many wildly inaccurate throws as you guys did. I saw Greg Little give up on what could have been a game changing long ball that could have provided some much needed confidence in the passing game. No one seems interested enough to point out that there was literally only one starting receiver in that game among all TE’s and WR’s and he was more like a no. 4b.

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    Great coaches gather information and improve in the later parts of the season just as they do in the 2nd half of games. Lewis is not one of those guys and his teams do not adjust well when down or stand up to the better coached opponents in the playoffs. Coaches are uncapped. Will Brown ever be willing or able to pay for one?