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Bengals lose Maualuga in first half against Colts

The return of linebacker Rey Maualuga to the Bengals' defense in mid-November spearheaded an improved performance by the team late in the year, especially their run defense. Now they'll have to play without him again.

Maualuga was ruled out of Sunday's Wild Card game against the Colts with a hamstring injury suffered in the first half. The loss may not be too huge on Sunday because the Colts are throwing nearly every down, and the Bengals are playing primarily in their "nickel" defense without a middle linebacker. Still, it's another big injury loss on a day where Cincinnati is playing without receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals also saw cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick suffer a right ankle injury, and his return is doubtful.

Here's what else we learned in the first half of Sunday's game:

  1. Cincinnati is getting very little pressure on Andrew Luck, even when they send extra defenders. Luck is looking down the field aggressively and playing outstanding. If not for a handful of drops by the Colts, this game could already be out of hand.
  1. Then again, the Bengals also made their own luck. Darqueze Dennard's forced fumble on Dan "Boom" Herron late in the first half should give the Bengals a huge boost at halftime. Mike Nugent's 57-yard yard field goal just before intermission gives this game a much different feel than most playoff contests under Andy Dalton.
  1. There is definitely a playoff vibe to the intensity of this one, including on the sideline. Bengals defenders Adam Jones and Geno Atkins got into it on the sideline early in the game.

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