Bengals' inability to win close games apparent again in loss to Colts

There’s a reason the Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the worst teams in the NFL since the start of the 2019 season.

Winning close games have been all but impossible during Zac Taylor’s coaching tenure. That proved to be the case on Sunday in a 31-27 loss against Indianapolis. Under Taylor, the Bengals are 1-11-1 in one-score games, which is easily the worst record in the NFL during that span. The lone win was a Week 4 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars this season in which a late field goal cut Cincinnati’s winning margin to 33-25.

Sunday’s loss to the Colts was perhaps the most troubling of the one-score lapses. The Bengals led 21-0 and were on the verge of picking up Taylor’s first win in Cincinnati against a team with a winning record.

However, the Bengals squandered that lead because of a lack of offense, ineffective pass defense and a lack of execution in the fourth quarter, when the Colts outscored the Bengals 10-0.

It all amounts to another close game that slipped away. For Cincinnati to get out of this rebuilding phase, it must find ways to win close games. Otherwise, this stage will take much longer than anyone anticipated.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Colts quarterback Philip Rivers looked like he was in vintage form against the Bengals’ defense. The 17th-year QB was 29-of-44 passing for 371 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The bulk of that damage came in the second quarter, when he threw for a career-high 235 yards and helped the Colts find their footing. Cincinnati was on the verge of running away with a road win until Rivers started to pick apart the Bengals’ defense.

QB breakdown: Burrow bounced back from a rocky outing against the Baltimore Ravens last week and had a strong start against the Colts. He was 25-of-39 passing for 313 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Burrow made some key throws throughout the game, including a big third-down throw to A.J. Green to keep hopes of a comeback alive in the final minutes. However, a late interception with the Bengals at the Colts’ 35-yard line sealed the Cincinnati defeat. Despite the error, it was a resilient performance from the rookie and another 300-yard effort.

Silver lining: After a frustrating seven days, Green had the performance that could jump-start his season. He caught eight of his 11 targets for 96 yards, which was easily his best game since the 2018 season. Green was admittedly frustrated after he failed to look like a seven-time Pro Bowl receiver through the first five games of the season. The veteran responded with an outing that signals he is building the confidence needed to be a viable receiver for the Bengals the rest of the season.