NFL playoffs: Indianapolis Colts face Denver Broncos after cruising past Cincinnati Bengals
Last Updated: 04/01/15 10:44pm
Andrew Luck will face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC playoff divisional round after he led the Indianapolis Colts to a 26-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Colts quarterback threw for 376 yards and a touchdown, while star receiver TY Hilton led the way with six catches for 103 yards as Indianapolis eased to victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Luck was delighted with his team’s performance afterwards but acknowledged the Colts will have to find another gear if they are to win against Manning in Denver next week.
“We know the Broncos are a great team,” Luck said. “Hopefully we can limit mistakes, put some points on the board and have our defence played lights out like they did today and have great special teams because it will take all three phases and everyone on the roster.”
The Bengals struggled offensively without injured four-time Pro Bowl receiver AJ Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham as the Colts loaded the box to limit star rookie running back Jeremy Hill to 47 yards rushing and one touchdown.
Andy Dalton threw for just 155 yards on 35 attempts with no touchdowns as he led the Bengals to just 14 first downs and saw his all-time playoff record fall to 0-4.
Indianapolis scored on the game’s opening possession when running back Daniel Herron, who accounted for 58 yards on the drive, punched the ball in from two yards out
The Bengals hit back when rookie Jeremy Hill bulldozed his way into the end zone to cap off a 74-yard drive, which saw Dalton hit Rex Burkhead for a key 26-yard third-down completion, to leave the teams level at the end of the first quarter.
Luck drove the Colts down the field on the next two possessions but the Bengals defence were able to stiffen in the red zone and Indianapolis had to settle for two Adam Vinatieri field goals.
The Colts were driving again late in the second until rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard stripped Herron and safety Reggie Nelson recovered at the Bengals 35-yard line.
Dalton moved the ball down the field far enough for Mike Nugent to attempt a 57-yard field goal – the second-longest in NFL postseason history – which clattered in off the post to leave the Bengals down just three at the break.
The second half was all Indianapolis and Luck stretched the Colts’ lead to ten in the third quarter when he scrambled out of the pocket and avoided Carlos Dunlap long enough to find rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief streaking towards the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown.
The Bengals struggled to muster any offence in the third quarter as they ran 13 plays for 19 yards and failed to gain a first down and yet another Vinatieri field goal left them down by 13 heading into the fourth.
The Colts dominated time of possession in the final period as running backs Herron and Zurlon Tipton bled the clock and Vinatieri added his fourth field goal to stretch the lead to 16 points.
Any faint hopes of a Bengals rally were extinguished with just under three minutes to play when linebacker Jerrell Freeman forced Dalton to fumble and Colts defensive lineman Montori Hughes recovered.
Indianapolis now moves on to face former Colts quarterback Manning in Denver on Sunday in a rematch of the opening game of the season which the Broncos won 31-24.