Three Down Look: Bengals Blow 21-Point Lead in Loss to Colts

Russ Heltman

Sunday was a tough pill to swallow for the Cincinnati Bengals as they blew a 21-point lead in their 31-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. 

Joe Burrow led the orange and black on three straight touchdown drives to open the game, but the defense and poor coaching squandered a 21-0 lead. It was the second-largest comeback in Colts' history. 

Here's the three-down look on another road loss in the Zac Taylor era.

Zac Taylor Questions are Mounting

Zac Taylor and his staff are running out of time to prove they are the right stewards for the Burrow era.

"At one point the tide is going to turn and we're going to gain some momentum, and we're going to make believers out of everybody," Taylor said after the loss.

You are as good as your record in this league. Taylor's has him in standing with some of the worst coaches in the history of the sport. He's 3-18-1 as head coach of the Bengals.

Taylor didn't do much on Sunday to help fight the mounting case against him after his scripted plays built a three-score lead. The Bengals never manufactured any pressure on Philip Rivers. Carlos Dunlap and the front seven finished with three quarterback hits and one sack. Rivers used all that time to torch the Bengals. He finished 8-of-10 for 135 yards and three touchdowns on intermediate throws according to NextGen Stats. The Bengals never made Rivers flinch. 

Taylor overthought one of the biggest plays of the game. The Bengals faced a 3rd-and-one with a little less than nine minutes left and the Colts clinging to a one-point lead.

Enter Samaje Perine. The rarely used back didn't pick up the first down. He hadn't touched the ball in a game since 2018. Overthinking in those situations ruined the Bengals hopes on Sunday. 

Randy Bullock missed a 48-yard field goal on the next play. 

Journeymen Define the Day

Not many expected Trey Burton and Markus Johnson to play such large roles in Sunday's game.

Burton was the spearhead for the early response from Indianapolis, catching four passes for 58 yards and one touchdown, while adding a rushing score. The seventh-year player entered the game with seven catches for 49 yards on the season. He got the best of Darius Phillips all afternoon.

Johnson had 504 career yards in four seasons coming into Sunday, but he minced the Bengals backend for 108 yards on five catches.

Phillips and the safety help from Vonn Bell were no match for Johnson's textbook corner route. Indianapolis never panicked and the impact from less-heralded veterans was a big reason why they completed the comeback.

Master and Padawan Shine on the Road

One of the first things Bengals fans heard from Tee Higgins after the team selected him in the second round was his affinity for A.J. Green. The two complemented each other perfectly on Sunday. Higgins led the team in receiving with a career-high 125 yards on six receptions, while Green had a season-high six catches for 96 yards.

Higgins is slowly becoming the Bengals' top option on the outside. Burrow found his fellow rookie for a 67-yard gain in the first quarter. 

Burrow hummed the ball 46 yards through the air according to NextGen Stats, quelling the notion he doesn't have outside lasers in his arsenal. Green, on the other hand, made his hay in the quick passing game.

The Bengals featured their highest-paid skill player all afternoon on a bevy of quick slants. The game plan utilized Green's big frame and helped him win the battle against Xavier Rhodes most of the game. Higgins and Green brought out their best performances against Indianapolis, but it wasn't enough for the victory.

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