CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals have gone on the road in the playoffs each of the last two seasons and lost in the first round. They would like to stay at home for at least one game this postseason.
Quarterback Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes and ran for another as Cincinnati beat the Indianapolis Colts 42-28 on Sunday in a battle of AFC division leaders at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals (9-4) improved to 6-0 at home this season and are closing in on clinching the AFC North title and a home playoff game. They have a two-game lead over Baltimore (7-6) with three games left to play.
Cincinnati's win gives it sole possession of the AFC's No. 3 spot in the playoff race. The Bengals nearly took the inside track to the No. 2 seed but New England's 27-26 comeback against Cleveland denied them that chance. The Bengals would own any tie-breaker with the Patriots (10-3) by virtue of a 13-6 win against New England in Week 5.
Dalton completed 24 of 35 passes for 275 yards and the three scores plus he added an 8-yard touchdown run on a scramble out of the pocket with 4:03 left in the fourth quarter as the Bengals topped the 40-point mark for the third consecutive home game.
Indianapolis (8-5) was held without a touchdown in the first half of its sixth consecutive game. The Colts had recovered to win three of the previous five games but could not overcome a 14-0 halftime deficit this time despite four touchdown passes by Andrew Luck in the second half.
Cincinnati had a 21-0 lead in the third quarter before the Colts scored on Luck touchdown passes of 69 yards to wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers and 19 yards to wide receiver LaVon Brazil in the span of four offensive plays. The Bengals missed a total of eight tackles on the two touchdowns.
"We've been a real good tackling team up until today," said Cincinnati defensive tackle Domata Peko. "They got us on a couple of big plays there but I think it was just us mostly. We missed a tackle and then we had a blown coverage. They got us on those two plays."
Luck finished the game with 326 yards passing, completing 29 of 46 attempts. He is just the second quarterback this season to throw for more than 300 yards against Cincinnati, joining Matthew Stafford of Detroit. The Bengals won that game, too.
"It wasn't enough," Luck said. "We got beat by a better team today. The Bengals beat our butts fair-and-square and there's no way to mince those words. The slow start hurt us. (We) got going a little bit there in the second half but not enough."
Dalton completed six of his seven passes on Cincinnati's opening drive, including a 29-yard touchdown to wide receiver Marvin Jones. Jones made a diving head-first catch with 8:03 left in the first quarter to give the Bengals their first touchdown in a first quarter since Oct. 27 against the New York Jets.
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored on a 1-yard run with 1:06 left in the second quarter to give the Bengals a 14-0 lead. Green-Ellis was initially ruled down short of the goal line but a replay booth challenge overturned the call on the field. It appeared that Indianapolis defensive lineman Josh Chapman may have tripped up Green-Ellis in the backfield but head referee Jeff Triplette said that possibility was never reviewed.
"There was a discussion about whether the runner was touched down at the goal line or not," Triplette said in a pool report. "I don't know about that, what position. ... There was nobody that touched him at the goal line. We looked at the goal line, (those) were the shots we looked at."
Cincinnati's defense held Indianapolis to 117 yards on six possessions in the first half. The Colts punted on five of their six drives. Luck had 96 yards passing in the first half on 10-of-20 completions.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri missed wide right on a 44-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter on the Colts' lone scoring opportunity of the half. Indianapolis has not scored a touchdown in the first half since getting three touchdowns in the first two quarters against Denver on Oct. 20.
Indianapolis converted just 2 of 10 third downs, while Cincinnati converted half of its 12 chances.
"They converted and we couldn't get off the field," said Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano.
Dalton threw touchdown passes of 1-yard to tight end Jermaine Gresham in the third quarter and 8 yards to wide receiver A.J. Green in the fourth quarter to help the Bengals keep the Colts at arm's length. Indianapolis never got closer than seven points.
"You want to keep doing that (scoring) and you want to keep controlling the ball," Dalton said. "We were able to do both of those. We had some long drives and some big plays, and we kept scoring, which really helped us out. Being up 14 going into halftime was big, but we needed to keep it going."
Cincinnati outgained Indianapolis 430 to 389. Neither team turned the ball over.
NOTES: It was just the third time this season that Bengals QB Andy Dalton had an interception-free game. ... Indianapolis DE Robert Mathis came into the game leading the NFL with 15.5 sacks. He was held without one for just the fourth time in 13 games this season. ... Cincinnati offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler was active after missing two games with a foot injury but did not start for the third straight game. Mike Pollak, a former Colt, started in his place. ... The Colts had former Bengals offensive lineman Mike McGlynn starting at right guard in place of injured Jeff Linkenbach. ... Cincinnati P Kevin Huber had two touchbacks in the game. He had just two touchbacks in the first 12 games of the season. ... Bengals WR Marvin Jones' touchdown reception was his first since catching four touchdowns against the New York Jets on Oct. 27. ... Cincinnati DBs George Iloka (head) and Terence Newman (knee) left the game in the second half and did not return.