By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — BENGALS 42, COLTS 28
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
The third-year signal-caller was unflappable, leading Cincinnati on a decisive scoring drive to start the third quarter after a controversial score put the Bengals ahead 14-0 at the half. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 275 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a glistening QB rating of 120.5. Dalton also matched Indianapolis' Andrew Luck point-for-point with four touchdowns in a wild second half to stake claim of the AFC's No. 3 playoff seed.
A scoreless first half again cost the Colts dearly. But the offense did its fair share in the second half, scoring four touchdowns and racking up 389 total yards for the day. Luck had his second-best passing total of the year with 326 yards and tied a career high with four touchdown passes. Two each went to young wide receivers LaVon Brazill (three catches, 53 yards) and Da'Rick Rogers (six catches, 107 yards) who finally stepped forward to aid T.Y. Hilton. Trent Richardson also had his most productive game as a Colt with 88 combined yards rushing and receiving.
The unit unquestionably caught a bad break when a goal-line stop of Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was incorrectly ruled a touchdown. But that doesn't excuse surrendering 430 yards overall and allowing the Bengals to push their lead to 21 points on three occasions in the second half. After forcing four turnovers in last week's win against Tennessee, the defense was shut out in that department Sunday. Instead it allowed scoring drives of 83, 66, 80, 60 and 59 yards.
Special Teams: C-
Things started well with Pro Bowl-caliber gunner Sergio Brown twice downing the ball inside the 10-yard line. But a 43-yard punt return severely swung momentum back in Cincinnati's favor late in the fourth-quarter and led to the Bengals' shortest scoring drive of the game (29 yards). Andy Studebaker partially blocked a punt for another highlight, but Adam Vinatieri missed a 44-yard field goal to snap a streak of 11 in a row.