Colts-Bengals Preview

The Cincinnati Bengals are finding surprising success with a

young offense, led by increasingly confident rookie quarterback

Andy Dalton.

Dalton and the Bengals will be looking to match last season’s

victory total when they host the winless Indianapolis Colts on


After being somewhat surprisingly handed the keys to

Cincinnati’s offense, Dalton has made impressive strides, leading

the Bengals (3-2) on consecutive game-winning drives in the fourth


The Bengals trailed Jacksonville 20-16 last Sunday when they got

the ball at the Jaguars’ 23-yard line with 5:14 remaining. Dalton

worked the short field, converting a fourth-and-6 along the way,

before Bernard Scott ran it in from two yards out for the go-ahead

score in a 30-20 victory.

“The more experience I have going out and seeing different

looks, I feel like I’m becoming comfortable,” said Dalton, who

completed 21 of 33 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

“Definitely getting easier.”

Dalton’s development has been aided by fellow rookie A.J. Green,

the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. He’s caught nine

passes for 208 yards the last two games and scored his third

touchdown of the season on a 37-yard pass from Dalton on


“He’s got the rare athletic ability to make the big plays

despite not being polished yet,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden

told the Bengals’ official website. “But when he gets the routes

down and knows how to run against certain looks, he’s going to be

really good.”

While Dalton and Green’s emergence has garnered attention, much

of the Bengals’ early success is because of their top-ranked

defense, which is surrendering 279.6 yards per game.

That defense could have another good day facing an Indianapolis

offense in flux without Peyton Manning and running back Joseph

Addai, who is out along with left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

With a young, talented offense and a solid defense, Cincinnati

is excited about the possibilities as it tries to shed its

reputation as a bumbling franchise unable to sustain any success.

The Bengals think the last two come-from-behind wins are evidence

of that.

“We were relentless,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. “Even

though they made some good plays, I think our old team would have

folded. But this is a new squad and we have a lot of heart on this


The Colts (0-5), meanwhile, are giving fans little reason for

optimism after a 28-24 loss to Kansas City on Sunday cemented their

worst start since beginning 0-10 in 1997.

“It’s a place we’ve not been before,” right guard Ryan Diem

said. “At the same time, we’re focused on the most important game,

which is the next game.”

Indianapolis has failed to protect double-digit leads the last

two games. The Colts were ahead by 17 against the Chiefs, but

Curtis Painter struggled in the second half and the defense

couldn’t hold up as it gave up more than 400 yards of offense for a

third straight game.

Painter was 12 of 17 for 237 yards with two touchdowns in the

first half, but he went 3 of 15 for 40 yards the rest of the day.

His first-half passer rating this season is a league-best 133.0,

but after halftime it drops to 72.4 – 27th among QBs with at least

30 attempts.

He continues to get little support from the running game, which

ranks 30th in the league at 82.0 yards per game. The Colts finished

with 78 last Sunday and could be in line for an even lower number

this week after Addai suffered a strained hamstring against the


Delone Carter and Donald Brown should get most of Addai’s work,

and the Colts activated Darren Evans from the practice squad this


The Colts’ increasingly crowded injured list also now includes

cornerback Jerraud Powers, who left Sunday with a hamstring injury

and is uncertain. His absence further depletes a secondary that is

giving up 254.2 passing yards per game.

Despite the many reasons for doubt, the Colts are feeling

perhaps more optimistic than their fans as their last four losses

have been by an average of 5.5 points.

“I think whatever we call, we just need to execute that better,”

coach Jim Caldwell said. “That’s my job to get them to play


The Colts have won seven in a row over the Bengals – all with

Manning starting – including a 23-17 victory on Nov. 14 as

Cincinnati turned it over five times.