It truly is Christmastime in the city.
"It was awesome," defensive tackle
It's tough to say the defense wasn't ready Sunday against a dangerous quarterback and a division champion. The Bengals held the Colts scoreless for the game's first 35 minutes as Cincinnati took a 21-0 lead. They wanted to make the Colts one-dimensional and Indy's backs averaged barely three yards per shot on 10 tentative carries. Once the Bengals did that, they wanted to take away Indy's biggest threat, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and Hilton didn’t have a catch until 12 minutes left in the game, finishing with just two catches for seven yards.
It's believed to be the first time since Nov. 21, 2010 when former Bengal Ryan Fitzpatrick did it for the Bills at PBS that a QB has thrown for four TDs against Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. It has only happened twice in Zimmer's 96 games in Cincinnati. The other was on Oct. 18, 2009 against Houston's Matt Schaub. Both were losses.
"We had a couple of missed tackles," said Peko, a vast understatement of the YouTube bloopers that resulted in Indy's first two scores. "We had a couple of lapses in communication when (Iloka) went down. We'll be fine. Zim will get it right. It was a big win, especially against an AFC team that is 8-4, too. If we just keep doing what we've been doing and keep working hard and keep trying to be the best, we can play with anybody, I think."
Let's face it. The Bengals are finally playing with a riveting brew bordering on confidence and outright swag because their offense is no longer tentative and indecisive. How many Bengals teams have melted down when great passers got hot? Not this one because the offense answered calmly and efficiently.
"The biggest thing in this game is we were able to answer the bell," left guard
" 'How are we going to get it back and respond?' When we were able to go on that run there and score three (out of the next four drives), to me that's what we haven't been able to do in the past. That's the biggest testament to what we did right there."
When the Colts cut it to 21-14 in a span of 3:37 in the third quarter, the Bengals scored on their next two drives to go up 35-14 early in the fourth when wide receiver
"They picked us up all year; today we backed them up," Green said of his defense.
Each drive featured a big-time third-down play. Four plays after Luck cut it to 21-14, Dalton faced a third-and-two from the Colts 34 and couldn't wait to get it to running back
"That's the matchup we want; Gio on a backer," Dalton said of his first option on that play. "They can't cover him."
Then on the next series Dalton was staring at a third-and-six from the Colts 40 and lofted a corner route to wide receiver
"They were basically playing us man-to-man," Jones said. "The running game helps with that, but they play man most of the time anyway and it was up to the receivers to win."
Green and Jones won enough to each score their eighth touchdowns of the season to remain in the team lead. Green scored his two plays later on the fade against Butler.
"The Colts don't play star coverage on anybody; they don't double anybody," Green said. "They just try to pressure your quarterback and shake him up and our offensive line did a great job picking up blitzes and we ran the ball to keep them honest."
Dalton was throwing free and easy because no one touched him. Literally. The Colts had no sacks or hits on Dalton.
So let's face it. If the offense is playing decisively and well, isn't it because the offensive line is being physical in the running game while not allowing a sack for the third straight game? And if the line is playing like that, isn't it because the Bengals have decided to replace injured left guard
What we do know is Whitworth made his first start at guard in five years Sunday and the results were as good as they were last week in San Diego, when he played all but five snaps at left guard. The Bengals kept the ball nearly 38 minutes while averaging 4.4 yards per rush and, even better, the move is invigorating not only for the rest of the line, but the rest of the team.
"How about that new offensive guard? Big 77?" Peko asked. "I love seeing him pull. Man, it's like, 'Holy smokes, 6-7 dude, 350 coming around.' No one is going to want that. We love seeing that on defense. It's a boost for the team."
Whitworth said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden asked him earlier in the week if he felt he was throwing away a Pro Bowl season at tackle if he moved to guard. Whitworth gave him the answer he gives everybody else: whatever gives us the best chance to win. "That's why I have a 'C' on my chest," Whitworth said. But clearly he loves it in there.
"Those guys are playing great," running back
While his teammates feed off him, Whitworth believes his team feeds off the running game.
“I think it does. I think we feel like playing physical football and being able to build plays off of that is really the identity of this football team," Whitworth said. "Now we’re really in a groove in making the identity. I think this is where we’re going to operate well. We’re able to run the football and be physical with teams, and also build passes and all those things around it.”
Last week Whitworth and the Bengals buried the Chargers with the power play where the guard pulls while everyone else including the back goes downhill. On Sunday they didn’t run it as much.
"We ran a little bit of everything," Whitworth said. "If you can run all the different styles of run plays and make them work, it's really tough for a defense to game plan you one way or the other. And today we were able to do that."
It has corresponded to the pass game where the Bengals have gone 12 straight quarters without giving up a sack. If the offense is hot, the offensive line is hotter.
"That's a good streak, but we want to make it six," said Whitworth, alluding to the final three games of the season. "That's our goal: to end this season keeping the quarterback upright with a lot of room and we can have gravy."