Colts must prepare for ‘new’ Bengals’ team

Published 10:42 pm Saturday, January 3, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson won’t watch the film of the Colts’ regular-season meeting with the Bengals.

Defensive lineman Cory Redding isn’t focused on it either.

Watching the game won’t do them any good while preparing for Sunday’s wild-card matchup with Cincinnati.

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“Whatever happened in that game, you have to completely wipe it out,” Jackson said Thursday. “They’re a completely different ballclub now.”

For Redding, that game is history.

“That’s how many weeks ago? I don’t pay attention or look at that stuff,” Redding said. “What we did in the past is in the past.”

When Indianapolis and Cincinnati met on Oct. 19, it was a 27-0 demolition by the Colts. Since then, things have changed.

The Colts could see receiver A.J. Green for the first time if he is cleared from concussion protocol. Green was sidelined with a turf toe injury in the first meeting between the teams.

Linebackers Emmanuel Lamur and Rey Maualuga missed that game with injuries, too. Now quarterback Andrew Luck has more to pick through in Sunday’s rematch.

“They do a great job of just making plays,” Luck said. “It seems like they have a great mix of good veterans, young guys that can play. We know every yard is tough against them.”

Indy’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries. Meanwhile, the Bengals have gotten a stronger ground game out of Jeremy Hill.

The rookie running back wasn’t on the Colts’ radar in Week 7. He totaled just 155 yards rushing over the first five games of the year, and ran for 15 yards against the Colts.

Now, he leads all NFL rookies with 1,124 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on the ground, a threat the Colts (11-5) are preparing for.

“Our one biggest thing on our game plan is you must stop Hill,” defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said. “We must stop that run game and make them beat us throwing.”

Hill became the third rookie with four games totaling 140 or more yards rushing — all after the Colts-Bengals game.

With Hill, the Bengals (10-5-1) have become so much more effective running the ball.

“I expect them to come in and that will be their main focus,” Jackson said. “That’s what we have to do defensively is force them to get into the third-and-longs, and that’s by winning first and second down.”

Indianapolis’ running game, on the other hand, hasn’t been so consistent, even after the Colts rushed for 171 yards against the Bengals — their second-highest total of the season.

Additionally, Indy has been searching for continuity on the offensive line. The Colts have battled injuries for much of the season, including starting right guard Hugh Thornton (shoulder) and A.Q Shipley (ankle), who started four games at center and a game at left guard.

Backup offensive lineman Joe Reitz returned this week after missing the previous three weeks with an ankle injury.

On Wednesday, the Colts placed Gosder Cherilus on injured reserve. The right tackle, who has a groin injury, started 13 games.

That’s just part of Indy’s worries. The Colts feel like they have a whole new Bengals team to prepare for.

“They give you a lot of problems as far as diagnosing, getting lined up, and playing assignment football,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “They’re playing fast, they’re playing physical. Of course, with Hill running the way he’s running and the offensive line doing extremely well, it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”

NOTES: Shipley (ankle) and Thornton (shoulder) didn’t practice Thursday. . Receiver Reggie Wayne (groin) and linebackers Bjoern Werner (shoulder) and Erik Walden (knee) were upgraded to full practice. . Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton avoided questions about the Raiders’ interest in him as a potential head coach. When asked if he was given permission to speak with Oakland, Hamilton said, “My total focus is just to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Bengals and that’s what we’re doing.”


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