Outplayed, not outclassed

Geoff, Everything I have read so far about yesterday's game has been how wonderful Peyton Manning is and the Colts offense picked our defense apart.

They barley mention that Carson only had 21 less yards with a better passing percentage. They also don't, mention that the Bengals had more total yards on what was supposed to be the #2 defense in football.

On paper it only makes sense that the Colts offense could have a good offensive outing against a Bengals defense that was ranked 15th, but I think it is more impressive what we did to the Colts defense (not to discredit the bengal defense, they played hard and they have done a great job this year). To me we outplayed the Colts.

What are your thoughts?
Mark, Toledo, OH MARK:
The Bengals didn't outplay the Colts, but they didn't get outclassed, which has to provide some sort of mental lift for a young team grappling to find its identity. They found out what separates them from the Colts, which is about two years, one or two more impact defensive players, and an offense that converts every third and fourth down known to man.

You could get sour grapes about it and add getting the calls the established contenders consistently get, even on the road, because the Bengals got absolutely no benefit of the doubt Sunday. Starting with the pass interference call on cornerback Tory James and finishing with the tough-to-find holding calls on Willie Anderson and Jeremi Johnson while the Colts got fewer than half the Bengals' nine penalties. And, did the play clock read 0 when safety Ifeanyi Ohalete was called offsides on a blitz?

And, what about not having injured free safety Madieu Williams? They drafted him for games like this, where he can cover the tight end as well as make sure tackles in the running game. Williams' absence seems to have showed up the most against Pittsburgh and Indy. Not having the range of your best defensive player always shows up against a fast, multiple offense.

But that would all be sour grapes and, besides, the Bengals still could have won the game. The big play is not a penalty, but not getting the fourth-and-one on the drive that could have tied it at 42 early in the fourth quarter. The big play is Carson Palmer's interception and he'll tell you he needs more experience to get as adept at Manning at the line of scrimmage, which is where he seemed to call most of those big third-down conversions. He's just not there yet, but there is Olympus.

Or the big play is Kyle Larson's shanked punt. Or, the big play is, well, the defensive leaders said it themselves. Brian Simmons. John Thornton. Bryan Robinson. It's unthinkable to score 37 points against anybody in the NFL and lose.

That's why the Colts outplayed the Bengals. They made every mistake hurt and the Bengals made enough to get hurt. But they certainly matched the Colts' offense in speed, intensity, and talent and that is saying something. It's pretty clear the Bengals are about where the Colts were in late 2002 and 2003. This game proved they are a few bricks shy, but it also proved they are building the right way.

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