INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts passed one test.
The Colts scored on a kickoff return, an interception return and a fumble return and it was all they needed to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 21-20 Friday night in their preseason finale.
"Winning the game was important to us, and we found a way to win," coach Tony Dungy said.
That was about all the Colts did right in front of another small crowd. Only 29,079 showed up two weeks after they drew the smallest crowd to watch an NFL game in Indianapolis - 26,741.
Those who were there saw an offense that struggled mightily without Edgerrin James and with Peyton Manning limited to three plays. Indianapolis (3-1) ran only 47 plays, including kneeldowns, and produced just 160 yards in offense.
The defense wasn't much better. Indianapolis drew five personal foul penalties and allowed Cincinnati (1-3) to convert 8-of-17 third downs.
Occasionally, the Bengals (1-3) took advantage.
But Cincinnati was, well, Cincinnati. Despite gaining 504 yards of offense and having an almost 12-minute advantage in time of possession, they still gave the game away.
Colts rookie Brad Pyatt returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback David Macklin returned an interception of a pass by Carson Palmer 93 yards early in the third quarter to tie the score at 14-14.
"We go down the same road and we don't do things that we did in practice and all of a sudden they show up on Sunday," new Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Obviously, it's not acceptable, and you can't beat good football teams leaving points on the table like that."
Besides the kickoff return, the Bengals botched five field-goal attempts including three at the end of the first half. Twice bad snaps prevented kicker Neil Rackers from even making an attempt. Another time, holder Travis Dorsch dropped the ball.
And Rackers missed the other two, one from 31 yards and another from 36 - although one was wiped out by an illegal procedure call.
It was preseason football at its worst and Lewis was not amused.
"It's definitely in their head because they don't drop one in practice," he said. "It's going to be in their head because it's on tape now, and till we fix it, that's the way it's going to be."
Then there was Palmer, the No. 1 draft choice in April. Palmer was 15 of 20 for 192 yards and a touchdown. But the miscues stood out.
His errant pass to Macklin allowed the Colts to tie the score, the third interception of the preseason that Palmer has had run back for a TD. His fumble midway through the fourth quarter gave Indianapolis the lead.
"That's a defensive lineman's dream, scoring the winning touchdown in the NFL," Brock said.
The Bengals couldn't even accomplish the one thing they'd hoped to - staying healthy.
Chad Johnson, the leading receiver last season, left late in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return. Backup running back Rudi Johnson sprained his left quadriceps in the first quarter, too.
Between mistakes, though, the Bengals showed glimpses of improvement.
They tied the score on a 6-yard run from Brandon Bennett midway through the first quarter and took a 14-7 lead when Shane Matthews hooked up with rookie Kelley Washington on a 52-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Matthews was 11 of 16 for 168 yards.
"The offense as a whole, we played well," Matthews said. "In the NFL, the bottom line is turnovers and it showed here tonight."
Despite all that, the Bengals still had a chance to win it when Palmer threw a 68-yard TD pass to Lawrence Hamilton, then tried a 2-point conversion. But T.J. Houshmandzadeh could not hang on and the Bengals didn't get another scoring chance.
"Defensively, we didn't play our best," Dungy said. "But it came down to turnovers and we got them when we needed them."
- Dungy said James did not play because of a sore ankle and hamstring.
- Ray Jackson led the Bengals in rushing with 20 carries for 69 yards.
- The victory gave Indianapolis its first three-win preseason since 2000. The last four times they've won three preseason games, they've reached the playoffs.
The Associated Press News Service
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