Yet the emergence of Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill generates hope moving forward.
Rogers, who had zero NFL catches coming into the game, caught six passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Brazill, who missed four games with a suspension to open the year, caught three passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns, capped by an epic run-after-catch in which he discarded six would-be tackles.
“I was happy for them,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “You get some positive stuff going, and maybe we can keep that as a whole offense. We need that positive play early. I know I need to play a lot better earlier in games, you know? But I'm happy for them. It's good to see them get in there and contribute. Those were special plays they made, some really nice plays.”
Rogers put the Colts on the board for the first time in the third quarter when he took a slant pass, shook off one defender and ran 69 yards for the score. A rookie out of Tennessee Tech, Rogers entered the league as an undrafted talent with a reputation for immaturity. He was cut by the Buffalo Bills before the season, and had spent most of this season on the Colts practice squad. He appears to be embracing his chance to demonstrate personal and professional growth.
“Hard work being put in every day,” Rogers said when asked the reason behind his emergence. “Get the work in, try to get right on the same page as Andrew. Two touchdowns (were) Pep (Hamilton, offensive coordinator) calling the right plays and guys being in the right place. Like I said, there's no such thing as a moral victory but we do have some things to build on.”
Rogers said coaches have been preaching that some of the younger receivers needed to step up to try to make up for the absence of injured veteran Reggie Wayne. Luck was able to hit a number of targets once the offense got rolling Sunday. He finished with 326 yards passing and four touchdowns while completing 29 of 46 passes.
Both Rogers and Brazill pointed to their commitment to early-morning work and attention to detail in earning them more playing time at receiver. It appears they could end up as the No.2 and No.3 receivers behind T.Y. Hilton moving forward.
Running back Trent Richardson caught five passes for 68 yards (most of them on a late drive), tight end Coby Fleener caught five passes for 31 yards and running back Donald Brown caught four passes for 18 yards. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (two for 23 yards), Hilton (two for seven yards) and tight ends Weslye Saunders (one for 11) and Jack Doyle (one for eight), were also targeted.
“All the pressure's not just on T.Y. anymore,” Brazill said. “It felt real good just to help T.Y. out a little bit. We talked about it last night that one of us (Brazill and Rogers) would have to make plays and we both did. It's good when you can make plays when your number's called.”
The Colts offense couldn't keep up with the Bengals, however. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton completed 24 of 35 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and the Bengals rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
Indianapolis (8-5) plays Houston (2-11) at home next Sunday.
“We need to build off some of the positive things we did in the second half,” Luck said, “and get heading in the right direction.”