Rushing offense: A
Granted the Indianapolis Colts were a below-average defense, but any time you can rush for 155 yards and three touchdowns, you’re getting the job done. The Bengals came within 1 yard of having their first 100-yard rusher of the season, but rookie Giovani Bernard had to settle for 99. And they came on a mere 12 carries, meaning he averaged 8.3 yards a pop. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a much more pedestrian 48 yards on 17 carries (2.8), but he recorded his first two-touchdown game as a Bengal and he converted all three of his short-yardage rushes. Even quarterback Andy Dalton contributed to the ground attack with an 8-yard touchdown.
Passing offense: A
No sacks. No interceptions. Three touchdowns. That pretty much says it all. Quarterback Andy Dalton’s passer rating of 120.5 was his highest in five games as he connected with seven different receivers, with six of them catching multiple passes. Jermaine Gresham got involved with five receptions on five targets for 41 yards and a touchdown after failing to record a reception last week at San Diego, while Marvin Jones averaged 20 yards on his three catches and scored his first touchdown since his four-score day against the Jets six weeks ago. Not only was Dalton not sacked for a third consecutive game, the Colts didn’t even register a single quarterback hit.
Rushing defense: A
The Colts are below-average running team. You could even argue way below average. But take away Andrew Luck’s two scrambles for 32 yards and the Bengals allowed Indianapolis only 31 yards on 10 called running plays. That’s a solid mark against any group of backs. The Bengals were so dominant against the run that Indianapolis only called three runs in the second half. Any time you can make any team that one dimensional, there isn’t much to critique.
Passing defense: D
One of the strengths of the team the entire season, perhaps the law of averages finally caught up them. Or perhaps Andrew Luck is every bit as good as advertised. Either way, the pass defense fell well short of its standards. After allowing only four passing touchdowns all year at home, the Bengals surrendered four to Luck and the Colts, two of which came after shoddy tackling efforts that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is sure to loudly address when the team meets to watch film Wednesday morning. The tackling was so bad that the Colts had more than 200 yards after catch. And the pass rush failed to register a single sack.
Special teams: B
It was a hit-or-miss day for Brandon Tate, who made a couple of bad decisions in bringing kickoffs out of the end zone but also ripped off a 44-yard kick return and a 43-yard punt return. Punter Kevin Huber had punts of 70 and 65 yards, but both resulted in touchbacks, doubling his season total to four. The kick coverage unit didn’t give up anything explosive, but the group wasn’t air tight either as Indianapolis had returns of 33 and 27 yards.
The offensive game plan was solid and the defensive game plan was satisfactory given the lead the team was playing with. The tackling issue was one that hasn’t cropped up all year, so it’s not like it’s something that the staff has ignored. The biggest in-game decision was when Marvin Lewis elected to go for it on fourth and goal at the 1 late in the second half while leading 7-0. It ended up working because referee Jeff Triplette botched the replay review, but regardless of how it worked, the end result is it did work and taking that 14-0 lead into halftime set the stage for an impressive offensive show in the second half.