With the aid of their offensive line, the Bengals scored on their first four possessions while building a 21-0 lead Sunday in Indianapolis, but another last-drive snafu allowed the ageless Philip Rivers to cut their lead to 24-21 at halftime.
Rivers, under fire after last week's loss to Cleveland in which he looked all of his 38 years, suddenly looked like the guy that put up 42 points in a half against the Bengals in 2006 game. He racked up 267 yards in the half on 18 of 26 passing. The killer came with 15 seconds left in the half and Rivers facing a third-and-10. Cornerback LeShaun Sims had good press coverage on wide receiver Zach Pascal, but he couldn't make a play on the ball for a 17-yard touchdown that Rivers seemingly dropped from a plane with no absolutely no pressure from the Bengals all half.
_But rookie quarterback Joe Burrow was very good, too. He was nine of 15 for 164 yards and was sacked just once when nobody was open. Running back Joe Mixon helped out with 44 yards on 11 carries, but he left in the second quarter with a right foot injury, although he did return to the sidelines before halftime.
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who converted a jet sweep for 25 yards to set up Randy Bullock's 47-yarder, left after the half's final series when he lost a first down by coming back after a catch and then lost the ball on a fumble recovered by center Trey Hopkins. Boyd, four catches for 52 yards, limped off the field.
_Burrow converted a third-and-nine for the Bengals' longest play since the middle of the 2017 season. With the Colts teeing up a cornerback blitz from the slot, Burrow knew he'd see some kind of man coverage and he went up top to rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins racing past cornerback Rock Ya-Sin for a 67-yard play that put the ball on the Colts 2.
It was the Bengals' longest play since wide receiver A.J. Green's 70-yard touchdown catch in Tennessee on Nov. 12, 2017.
When tight end Drew Sample flinched on first down, the Bengals offensive line took over a game it dominated early on. With left guard Michael Jordan and left tackle Jonah Williams pulling and everyone else pushing the Colts back, Mixon kept his legs driving behind the pile and mushed in a seven-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 on the first snap of the second quarter.
The offense that came into the game with no red-zone rushing touchdowns had three in Sunday's first 15:06.
_The Bengals interior offensive line pushed around the estimable Colts front right off the first snap. After going up 7-0 on their first red-zone rushing touchdown of the season, on the second series Burrow put his head down at the Colts 2 on a fourth-and-one sneak, Jordan and Williams shot off the ball and running back Samaje Perine, lined up as a fullback, pushed from the back and the Bengals led, 14-0, less than 12 minutes into the game.
The drive featured the return of Green. On his first catch in two weeks, Green made himself available in the middle of the field on a Burrow scramble for a 12-yarder. Then he made his longest catch of the season on a classic A.J-like slant and run dragging a defender at the end of his 17-yard gain.
And Burrow got the obligatory third-down catch from Boyd, their eighth third-down connection, on a 23-yarder Burrow floated down the seam of a zone on third-and-nine.
_For the ninth time this season the Bengals faced a third-and-goal on their first possession and they scored a touchdown for the fifth time when running back Giovani Bernard scored standing up on a third-down two-yard touchdown run to give them a 7-0 lead.
That was courtesy of Hopkins and Jordan covering up monstrous Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to give them a 7-0 lead, set up on Burrow's 22-yard catch-and-run slant to Boyd.
_What a start for veteran defensive tackle Xavier Williams in his Bengals debut. He not only started the game, but the second snap he grabbed tight end Jack Doyle unforced fumble at the Colts 43 to set up the Bengals' 7-0 lead. And it was the Bengals' first fumble recovery of the season.
_The Bengals followed up that series with two three-and-outs on two terrific third-and-short stops by cornerback William Jackson III. On the first one he took advantage of end Carl Lawson's penetration and dropped running back Jonathan Taylor for a one-yard gain. Then on the second one knocked away a slant headed for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.
_Despite the big lead, the Bengals couldn't generate any pass rush and that allowed Rivers to unleash a 55-yard bomb to wide receiver Marcus Johnson, just off the practice squad, working against strong safety Vonn Bell, and that set up tight end Trey Burton's one-yard run as the quarterback out of the Wildcat formation.
_At that point Rivers abandoned the run game and attacked the Bengals underneath, relying on quick throws, yards after catch and some missed tackles. And, the Bengals couldn't cover Johnson. On a key play in the Colts' last drive Johnson got behind Sims and safety Shawn Williams for a 20-yarder.