Cincinnati Bengals’ offense can right wrongs against Colts


After a poor offensive second-half performance against Pittsburgh, Bill Lazor has a favorable matchup this Sunday when the Colts come to town.

The Cincinnati Bengals did not score a touchdown through the first two weeks of the season. The sputtering offense cost Ken Zampese his job, leading to Bill Lazor’s promotion to offensive coordinator.

In Lazor’s debut, the Bengals scored two first-half touchdowns but managed just a field goal over their final seven drives in a three-point overtime loss to the Packers.

That Week 3 loss to Green Bay is similar to last Sunday’s debacle at Heinz Field. Cincinnati’s offense scored two touchdowns on its first three drives but managed just 20 yards and one first down on its final 23 plays.

Following the loss at Lambeau, the Bengals found the cure that ails ‘em – a trip to Cleveland. Against the Browns, Andy Dalton tossed four touchdown passes as Cincinnati rolled to a 31-7 victory.

This Sunday offers a similar chance to highlight the scoreboard when the last-place Colts visit Paul Brown Stadium.

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The Colts’ defense comes into the Queen City with the NFL’s worst scoring defense, yielding 31.7 points per game. For Dalton, the Indianapolis’ secondary ranks 31st, giving up 300.7 yards per contest through the air.

Sub-par teams and quarterbacks have had their way with Indianapolis, with five signal-callers –Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Brian Hoyer, Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles – posting a 99-plus passer rating against them this season.

Additionally, the Colts secondary is short-handed with multiple injuries.

Rookie Malik Hooker, the fifteenth overall pick in April, leads the club with three interceptions but is done for the year with a torn ACL suffered in last Sunday’s shutout loss to Jacksonville.

Cincinnati Bengals' offense can right wrongs against Colts
The Colts are yielding five yards per carry over their two-game losing streak. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Safeties Darius Butler (ankle) and T.J. Green (hamstring) and defensive back Rashaan Melvin (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday.

Pound the rock

On the ground, Indianapolis hasn’t been much better. Second-year defensive coordinator Ted Monachino’s No. 26-ranked run defense has been gashed for five yards per carry over the last two games, losses to Tennessee and Jacksonville.

A breakout game for rookie Joe Mixon could help the Bengals save their season, at least for one week.

Much has been made of Mixon’s lack of second-half involvement in last week’s loss to Pittsburgh. Questions are swarming about Jeremy Hill still starting each week, and why Cincinnati has the third-worst rushing attack in the conference.

Marvin Lewis claimed that Mixon gets a feel for the game when Hill starts. There are holes in that explanation, considering other rookies like Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook (pre-injury), Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey need no such learning experience.

When A.J. Green complained about his lack of targets after a four-point loss to Houston, he was the focal point of the offense against the Packers, catching 10 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.

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This Sunday offers Mixon’s chance for a turnaround performance. His highest carry total this season is 18, also against Green Bay.

The Bengals have just three 100-yard rushers since the start of 2015. Waiting in the wings is Mixon, looking to get a starter’s workload when the Colts come to town.

Realistically, the season is not over, but the Bengals are in must-win mode for the next couple of weeks. The first step is to get to .500, then work from there in a conference where no team seems to be overwhelmingly running away in the standings.