CINCINNATI — The Indianapolis Colts had managed to get into playoff contention without their starting quarterback and star running back.
But their four-game winning streak ended Sunday as they were routed by the Cincinnati Bengals 34-14. Coach Shane Steichen acknowledged he wasn't sure how it happened.
“I wish I had an answer for you,” he said. “I really do.”
The Colts were humming along with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, who had engineered wins over four struggling teams: Carolina, New England, Tampa Bay and Tennessee. But against the suddenly resurgent Bengals, Minshew and the Colts (7-6) made too many mistakes to keep it going.
“A lot of self-inflicted stuff happened out there (Sunday),” Steichen said. “We had a drive going, and a penalty moves us back. We have another drive going, and another penalty moves us back. We have a holding call. A lot of stuff.”
Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5, and 2021 rushing champion Jonathan Taylor has missed five of 12 games with ankle and thumb injuries.
Minshew, a backup for most of his career, has been serviceable. Against the Bengals, he was 26 of 39 for 240 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His touchdown pass to Moe Alie-Cox in the second quarter was the only offensive score by the Colts. Minshew was sacked three times.
Indy was penalized nine times for 66 yards and was held to 46 yards rushing.
“We've been doing some good things, and today we just couldn't figure it out,” said Zack Moss, who carried the ball 13 times for 28 yards.
“Today wasn't what we're about and what we want to be about. We have to figure it out," Minshew said.
“I think we should still have a lot of confidence in the body of work we put on tape this year and the work we've done together,” the QB added. “So I think we're going to come together, get better and be ready to go next Saturday.”
Indianapolis hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have lost two straight games and like the Colts are 7-6. Both teams are still in the playoff picture but could easily fall behind in the tightly bunched AFC.
“We've still got everything we want right ahead of us,” tight end Will Mallory said. “So we've just got to handle business this upcoming weekend. This one stings but you've got to move on.”