With the sleet holding off at sold-out Paul Brown Stadium, rookie running back
The Bengals continued to dominate at home in extending their PBS-record winning streak to seven games and 6-0 this season in a game they scored at least 40 points in three straight home games for the first time in history. And they did it surviving just their second 300-yard passing game since Week 2 of 2012 when Luck matched Dalton's four touchdown passes with 326 yards on 29-of 46-passing.
Dalton hit 24 of 35 passes for 275 yards for a passer rating of 120.5 while Bernard flirted with his first 100-yard game with 99 yards on 12 carries. He also had 49 yards on four catches. Dalton's touchdown passes came to three different receivers, a 29-yarder to wide receiver
Before 62,507 the 9-4 Bengals grabbed the all-important tiebreaker against the 8-5 Colts. As amazing as it sounds, the Bengals clinched nothing after dismantling the Colts and the Colts clinched the AFC South as they headed back home while Denver finished off Tennessee.
The Bengals moved past the Colts to take the lead for the AFC's No. 3 seed. But the Miracle Patriots still hold a one-game lead for the No. 2 seed and the 7-6 Ravens are still in the AFC North chase, trailing the Bengals by two games with three to play after their own miracle against Minnesota.
After bolting to leads of 21-0 and 35-14, Luck brought the Colts to within 35-21 when he threw his third touchdown pass of the day with 9:48 left on a perfect 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver LaVon Brazill just over the outstretched hand of cornerback
The Bengals jumped to a 21-0 lead over the Colts early in the third quarter and then watched rare lapses by their defense and special teams to allow the Colts to score two touchdowns in a span of 3:37 to cut the lead to 21-14 with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
The Colts went the first half without converting a third down, but on their first one of of the second half Luck threw an eight-yard flip over the middle to wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers and watched him turn it into a 69-yard touchdown with 60 coming after safety
Then a few moments after the red-hot
It marked the first time in 10 PBS games that an opposing quarterback had thrown more than one touchdown pass. And the two TDs were exactly one half of the four the Bengals had given up in the five previous home games.
Dalton rained down completions on the Colts during his first drive to stake Cincinnati to a 7-0 lead and running back
It appeared with 1:06 left in the half that the Bengals had been stymied on fourth down from the 1 when they blocked the run to the right perfectly with Green-Ellis following defensive tackle
But with everyone assuming the call would stand up to replay, the refs surprisingly reversed it to cap off Cincinnati's 66-yard touchdown drive where Bernard set up the Law Firm. On the series' first play G-Man cleanly beat linebacker Jerrell Freeman in coverage and took off on a 22-yard reception and he added a 14-yard run when he scooted to the perimeter and skated behind right tackle
Bernard finished the half with a blurry 54 yards on five carries and he teamed with BJGE's 23 yards on nine carries to give the Bengals 6.9 yards per carry in the half. With Dalton hitting of 12 of 19 passes for 139 yards for a 102.7 passer rating, it was a nice mix as Luck struggled to a 63.9 rating on 10-of-20 for 96 yards.
Dalton opened the scoring when he hit wide receiver Marvin Jones on a pretty "go" ball for a diving 29-yard touchdown catch just 5:22 into the game.
The Colts beefed up the box with eight players to shut down the Bengals run, so Dalton hit his first five passes and six of seven in the drive for 81 yards and his 15th drive of the season of at least 80 yards. A sliding catch over the middle by wide receiver A.J. Green converted a third-and-two and with Gresham split wide and isolated on safety Antoine Bethea, Dalton drilled a quick out to convert a third-and-three.
Dalton then chucked a beauty down the left side to Jones, scoring for the first time since his record four-TD performance in PBS against the Jets on Oct. 27. Jones almost seemed to shift into to a higher gear when he saw the ball over his right shoulder as he sped past cornerback Vontae Davis and sold out on a dive to make the catch.
Coming into the game the defense had held foes to 26 percent on third down in running the Bengals PBS record to 5-0 and the Bengals responded Sunday by stifling Luck on his six tries in the first half. They finished the day putting Indy through a dreadful 2-for-10 day on third down.
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped one third-down pass with cornerback Adam Jones on the coverage and on another linebackers
The Bengals came up empty after that first drive when the Colts did a nice job gumming up the run game, but Bernard began to make things happen early in the second quarter. He worked behind a double-team block of center
That had the Bengals set up for a big play, but on first down Dalton barely overthrew Eifert running past Walden at about the Colts 20 and the Bengals ended up punting.
Luck resorted to short passes and they got the Colts to the Bengals 29 when running back Trent Richardson took a dump pass and wriggled out of a tackle by SAM linebacker
The biggest Colts weapon, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, had no catches in the half on three targets, and did't catch his first ball until 12 minutes left in the game. He had just two catches for seven yards.
PREGAME NOTES: The last piece of tarp rolled off the Paul Brown Stadium turf about 90 minutes before Sunday's kickoff, at about the same time the swirling snow stopped and conditions didn't look all that bad as a smattering of Bengals and Colts began to warm up gingerly bundled up in sweat clothes. Plus, new weather forecasts had the sleet storm slated for the afternoon missing Cincinnati.
So as kickoff neared it looked the day would just be cold with hardly any wind. And it was all of that with the 25-degree temperature feeling more like 17 as Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis handed in his active sheet. The only suspense was if left tackle
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton showed up for warmups in a long-sleeved shirt, a glove on his left hand and no glove on his throwing hand. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who grew up 15 minutes from Dalton in the Houston area, was in short-sleeves with no gloves.
Even though right guard
The only semi-surprise on Lewis's list was tight end
The Colts sat down four injured starters, including their two guards, Hugh Thornton and Jeff Linkenbach. Cornerback Greg Toler was down for the sixth straight game and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois had already been declared out.
Former Bengals right guard Mike McGlynn, benched last week, returned to the starting lineup for the Colts.
Before he went out to midfield as an honorary captain, Ken Riley, the Bengals all-time career interceptions leader, saluted the crowd as some of his 65 career picks appeared on the scoreboard. Fittingly, Lewis announced the defensive starters. And why not? The Bengals have held foes to 15 points per game in going 5-0 at PBS this season.