Indianapolis' defense is sending a powerful message.
It, too, can beat the best.
On a Sunday that Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for another score, the Colts' relied on a suffocating effort to stymie Cincinnati 27-0.
The Colts (5-2) capped their first shutout since Dec. 28, 2008 with a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter and allowed just 135 total yards, forcing the Bengals (3-2-1) into a franchise-tying record 11 punts. Cincinnati hadn't been shut out since the final regular season game of the 2009 season.
Cincinnati entered the game ranked No. 5 in the NFL in offense. The Bengals — winless since starting 3-0 — didn't even run a play in Indy territory until the fourth quarter. Andy Dalton finished 18 of 36 for 126 yards.
Luck finished 27 of 42, for 344 yards, leading the Colts to a 506-yard day and their fifth consecutive victory.
T.Y. Hilton finished with seven catches for 107 yards, his second straight 100-yard game. Reggie Wayne caught four passes for 15 yards to give him 14,000 yards. He's the ninth NFL player in that club.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw scored twice, including his first rushing touchdown of the season, and Indy wound up with 171 yards rushing.
But the defense left nothing to chance.
With Robert Mathis, the 2013 NFL sacks champ, relegated to waving a towel, starting defensive tackle Arthur Jones inactive and starting linebacker Erik Walden ejected late in the first half for making contact with umpire Bruce Stritesky, the Colts still made life miserable for the Bengals.
Cincinnati finished the first half with eight three-and-outs and only two first downs — the first coming on Walden's penalty.
Giovani Bernard ran seven times for 17 yards and Jermaine Gresham caught 10 passes for 48 yards.
Luck led Indy on two 68-yard drives in the first half, capping one with a 23-yard field goal and the other with Bradshaw's 1-yard TD run to make it 10-0.
In the second half, he capped one 85-yard drive with a late throw to Dwayne Allen, who barely caught the ball on his fingertips then turned up the field and tight-roped the sideline for a 32-yard TD catch that made it 17-0 with 9:47 to go. And capped the second with a 10-yard TD pass to Bradshaw that the refs originally ruled down just outside the goal line. But the Colts challenged and the play was overturned, making it 24-0.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL