The Bengals top-ranked defense did what it had to do Sunday against the hapless Colts, and because of it, the Bengals are now 4-2 following a 27-17 win at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cornerback Nate Clements blocked a late field goal try that would have tied the game, and Carlos Dunlap returned a Colts fumble 35 yards for the clinching score Sunday, helping out in the Bengals fourth win of the year.
The win ties their entire win total for all of 2010.
The Bengals also ended a seven-game losing streak against the Colts, who had never lost to Cincinnati with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Manning was on the sideline again Sunday, watching helplessly as the Colts fell to 0-6 for the fifth time in franchise history.
Andy Dalton threw for 264 yards and a touchdown, and Cedric Benson ran for 57 yards and a touchdown, while rookie A.J. Green caught five passes for 51 yards and a score for the Bengals.
Curtis Painter rallied Indianapolis from a 20-7 deficit in the second half, getting the Colts in range for Adam Vinatieri’s 52-yard field goal try to tie with 5:38 left. Clements swatted it away.
After the Bengals missed a field goal, Pierre Garcon was stripped of the ball after a reception and Dunlap ran it back to finish it off.
It was the second straight Bengals win capped by a defensive lineman in the end zone. Geno Atkins’ 10-yard fumble return completed a 30-20 victory in Jacksonville a week earlier.
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton sent the Bengals into their bye week on an upbeat note, putting together an impressive performance against the Colts’ hard-charging defense. He was 25 of 32 for 264 yards and one touchdown without a sack, completing 13 straight throws over one stretch.
Clements got it going by stripping Dallas Clark of the ball on Painter’s first completion, setting up Dalton’s 11-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.
The Colts’ mess of an offense took two more hits Sunday.
Already missing Manning, the Colts also were without injured running back Joseph Addai and left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Indianapolis had to shuffle its line, moving Jeff Linkenbach from right to left tackle. Guard Ryan Diam, hobbled by an ankle injury, moved from guard to right tackle.
Not a good way to go against the NFL’s top-ranked defense.
Still, the Colts had a chance at the end.
Painter’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Clark cut it to 20-17 with 9:33 left. He would get them in range for the tying field goal, only to have Clements — a free agent acquisition who replaced Johnathan Joseph — slap it away. Dunlap’s fumble return with 2:22 to go ended Indy’s chances.
Painter was 23 of 34 for 188 yards with his first interception in 115 attempts.