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.
ReFo: Bengals @ Colts, Wild Card Round
We’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.
Follow Steve on Twitter.