Bengals offense improving, still looking for points
OCT 07, 2013 8:16p ET
It wasn’t a huge upgrade but after being stymied the week before at Cleveland, the Bengals got back to running the football and spreading it around to all of the weapons that have been installed around quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green. They were efficient enough in the 13-6 victory, totaling 341 yards on 70 plays and controlling the ball for more than 34 minutes. They chose the right time to snap a streak of 20 possessions and more than 121 minutes of game time without an offensive touchdown.
The Bengals have turned the ball over at least twice in four of the five games this season. Sunday they were able to overcome the first red-zone interception of Andy Dalton’s career and a fumble by Gio Bernard in the fourth quarter that gave Tom Brady and the Patriots the ball back with 3:26 remaining. Minus those two plays, the margin of victory is perhaps larger and/or the comfort level in the game’s closing minutes is greater.
"For us to be a great offense we have to avoid the unbelievable; the fumbles, the interceptions across your body, a blown assignment on a block. Unbelievable,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "There are some of them on tape that we’ll scratch our head at but that’s why we coach. We’ll coach them up. We’ve got a young team and we’re still working. We’re happy with who we have on this offensive team and we’ll get better.”
Dalton has attempted 175 passes this season and targeted Green on 56 of those throws (32 percent). Green has 31 catches for 361 yards and three touchdowns this season. He is going to be the focal point of every defense the Bengals face this season. How the others produce that will determine how well the Bengals do offensively.
Six different receivers caught at least two passes against New England. Dalton’s first seven pass attempts were to tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, and Bernard out of the backfield. His first throw to a wide receiver was caught by Green for 18 yards and converted a third-and-5 play for a first down. The drive eventually ended in a Mike Nugent field goal. Dalton was 4-for-4 for 51 yards on throws to Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu on the drive.
Jones later made a 28-yard reception on a third-and-15 play from the Bengals 2-yard line that kick-started the only touchdown drive of the game. Eifert finished the game with five catches for 53 yards, while Gresham had four catches for 24 yards.
"That was a big time throw and catch. Marvin has made a couple of those the last couple of games on third downs,” said Gruden. "It’s good to get other people involved, too, because a lot of times people are rolling their safeties over to A.J.’s side and it’s hard to get him the ball when they’re playing their best corner underneath him and the safety is over the top, so our other guys are going to have to step up.”
The Bengals ran the ball just 20 times in their 17-6 loss at Cleveland but four of those runs were by Dalton. They ran the ball 37 times against the Patriots (not counting two kneel downs by Dalton), with Green-Ellis getting 19 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown, and Bernard running it 13 times for 62 yards, 28 of which came on one carry in the third quarter.
It is the most rushing attempts they’ve had in a game since running it 41 times at Philadelphia in Week 15 last season. The 162 rushing yards against New England was their most since they gained 221 against Oakland in Week 12 last season.
"It's a balanced offense. The truth is when you have what we have – and I believe in this – I believe we've got a lot of match-up problems for teams,” said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "Being this balanced is what's going to create all those things to be more and more efficient because not only do they have to match up, they have to stop the run or hard play action. They have to prepare for all these different things and stop all these moving pieces.
"Thats why I say if you keep that physicality, they have to worry about that downhill play, (and) that run outside. They have to worry about all these things and not just sitting there worrying about who they're covering or worrying about pass drops. You keep the physicality in your offense and you're going to have a chance to have that much better of an offense.”
The Bengals had 13 possessions in the game, two of which were one-play kneel-downs to end the halves. They went three-and-out on five drives. Four of their drives were of at least eight plays. The trick now is to find a way get into the end zone more consistently.
"We have to continue to be more consistent to finish those drives off with touchdowns,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We’ve had a lot of those drives this year and a lot of them earlier in the year we were putting in for touchdowns. We’ve got to get back to that. We’ve got to be a little more consistent with assignments and finish and things that way.”
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