Should we call it the perfect win?
Is there such a thing?
Cincinnati's 49 points is the most that they've scored since putting up 58 against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 28, 2004. It's the first win by 40 points or more since 1989. Epic. Dominating. Earth shattering. Now you'll have an answer when asked, where were you when the Bengals played the perfect game?
Cincinnati's beautifully orchestrated blow-out was desperately needed. Not to prove that the Bnegals can win games; they've established that this year with wins over the Packers, Patriots, Lions, Steelers and Bills. It's more symbolic than that. It drives Andy Dalton detractors back into their respective caves to hibernate until their "told you" moment when it's most convenient. It resolved the two-year old question on whom should be the team's number two receiver. And it finally gave Cincinnati a significant win without requiring last minute (or second half) offensive drives or defensive stands to maintain their respective victories.
Maybe the explosive start was comparable to Cincinnati's 31-3 first half performance against the Chicago Bears in 2009. Either way, the convincing win against the New York Jets was four years in the making, who had eliminated Cincinnati in the 2009 playoffs. In fact, it was a reversal of trends with New York conquering Cincinnati by winning nine of the past ten games as the bane of Cincinnati's resolution to achieve something great.
A win so convincing that whatever pregame anxiety existed by the midway point in the third, forced most to turn to the power of prayer to eliminate the growing infirmary on Cincinnati's sidelines. Rey Maualuga and Taylor Mays suffered the biggest injuries, but a collection of injuries (mostly viewed as minor until we know more) permeated throughout the final three quarters; Andrew Whitworth, Mohamed Sanu, and even Shawn Williams left the game at various moments. Whitworth and Sanu didn't return, but considering the lead that Cincinnati opened with, it made sense to keep them out for the rest of the game.
But it was a game that was crafted with Jay Gruden artistry. Realizing that New York brought a tough defensive crew highlighted by a stifling run defense, the Bengals took to the air. When it was over, Andy Dalton set a career-high with five touchdowns while completing 63 percent of his passes for 325 yards passing. Jones accounted for 122 of those yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns. A.J. Green added a pair of 50-plus yard receptions for 115 yards receiving on three grabs. Jones, with seven touchdowns on the season, leads the team and continues a streak of scoring touchdowns in three straight games.
Back to Dalton for a moment, over the last three games, the Bengals starting quarterback has completed 69 of 104 passes for 1,074 yards passing with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Yet it was as if the offense wasn't even needed. Chris Crocker and Adam Jones added interception returns for touchdown in the second half, scoring 14 of Cincinnati's 49 points. Geno Smith was eventually pulled with over 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter along with most of Cincinnati's defense, completing 20 of 30 passes for 159 yards passing. Along with the two interceptions, the Bengals defense sacked Smith three times, held their offense to under 200 yards (in regards to the first team units only), five punts and a third down conversion below 50 percent.
The Bengals will have a short week and based on their collection of injuries, need the rest as the team heads to Miami to play the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.
MORE ON THE GAME
Respect this passing game, we can hear Jay Gruden shouting with his best Eric Cartman impression. With 14:21 remaining in the first quarter, A.J. Green breaks away down the right sidelines, but Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie recovered just enough to tip the football for an incomplete. Just a skosh longer and the gain is significant. It was only a preview of Cincinnati's powerful impressions.
Several plays later, Dalton finds an open Mohamed Sanu down the middle of the field, but the diving receiver couldn't complete the reception after landing on sweet smells of Paul Brown Stadium's turf. Closer. Regardless, the Bengals kept their wits with an assortment of slants and outs to Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert and Dane Sanzenbacher, accumulating four first downs, including a perfect two for two on third down.
Cincinnati made their biggest shift during their opening possession when Cromartie was called for a 34-yard pass interference with 10:12 remaining in the first quarter on a pass targeting Sanu down the left sidelines. Following a Giovani Bernard four-yard gain, Dalton hit Marvin Jones on a back-shoulder throw near the front left pylon to give Cincinnati a 7-0 lead with 9:59 remaining in the first quarter. It was Jones' third straight game scoring a touchdown.
Mike Zimmer dialed up a handful of outside blitzes, forcing a throw-away on first down and a Geno Atkins quarterback sack that forced New York to punt after going three and out.
Dalton continued to terrorize the Jets defense utilizing Green, Eifert, and Jones, who converted a 30-yard reception with 5:51 remaining in the first quarter to the Jets four-yard line. Following a no-gain by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, tight end Jermaine Gresham slipped to the back of the end-zone to haul in his first touchdown reception of the season, giving Cincinnati a 14-point lead with over four minutes remaining in the first. It's the second touchdown in as many games by the Bengals tight end duo, who combined for only four receptions and 37 yards receiving.
During the game's opening two possessions, Dalton completed eight of ten passes for 94 yards passing, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 145.4. Cincinnati as a whole generated 119 yards of offense, compiling nine first downs while the Jets were, at one point, eight yards in the red.
Despite generating their first (and only) first down of the first quarter on a 17-yard catch by Powell, the Jets were forced to punt after Reggie Nelson's quarterback sack that pushed New York back to their own 26-yard line.
Cincinnati responded with a play-action pass down the middle of the field, with the capable A.J. Green hauling in the 53-yard pass with Cromartie in tight coverage to the Jets 11-yard line. On the next play, Dalton swung the pass to Giovani Bernard's flair next the left sidelines, where he dove for the endzone. Initially called a fumble and touchback, the call was overturned and the Bengals had second and one from the Jets two-yard line.
Unfortunately the momentum on that possession stalled.
With Domata Peko at fullback, BeJarvus Green-Ellis was stuffed on second down. Dalton and Eifert were unable to hook up on third, leading to a fourth down conversion. Green-Ellis was stuffed again and the Bengals turned the ball over on downs. New York was unable to pick up a first down when Chris Crocker blitzed at the line of scrimmage and dropped Powell for a no-gain. Then Dalton tried to squeeze the football threw a small window on a third down screen but Muhammad Wilkerson tipped and intercepted the football at Cincinnati's 40-yard line with 11:07 remaining in the second. Nick Folk converted the eventual 45-yard field goal to reduce Cincinnati's lead 14-3 with 9:09 remaining.
Cincinnati's offensive prowess continued between the 20s, with a beautifully crafted pass and grab between Sanu and Dalton, picking up 24 yards. Marvin Jones added another 45 yards on a curl, but avoided a handful of Jets defenders reaching New York's six-yard line. Following a handful of incomplete passes, Dalton hit Jones on another back-shoulder throw resulting in a touchdown and Bengals 21-3 lead with 6:13 remaining in the second quarter.
Nick Folk added a 47-yard field goal with 1:08 remaining to cap New York's best first half possession, which began at their own 20-yard line and ended at Cincinnati's 30, thanks to an overthrow as Geno Atkins was mounting an explosive hit.
One would think that the half would end and the Bengals take a 21-6 lead into the lock room. Instead, Brandon Tate returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yards to the Jets 29-yard line leaving 57 seconds on the clock. After a quick 12-yard strike to Jones and three-yard run for Giovani Bernard, Dalton lobbed the football near the right sidelines where Jones artistically lowered both feet in-bounds for a touchdown and 28-6 lead.
Cincinnati's scoring quickly resumed as the second half opened when Chris Crocker jumped a Geno Smith pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown, extending Cincinnati's lead to 29 points. And the rest turned into a Jets white flag and a massive Bengals grin.
- A scary moment for Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. It appeared at first that he suffered a head injury with 4:16 remaining in the second quarter and was down for several minutes. However, the team announced soon after that Maualuga suffered a left knee injury and his return was questionable. The cart came out and picked up Maualuga as the entire defense gave him a send-off to a roaring Paul Brown Stadium. Michael Boley replaced him. By Cincinnati's next possession, Maualuga was ruled out.
- Taylor Mays suffered a shoulder injury at the conclusion of the first half, immediately ruled out.
- Andrew Whitworth sat out during Cincinnati's final drive and the entire second half after leaving the game with a knee. His return was initially questionable, but considering that the Bengals had a 29-point lead in the second half, it made more than enough sense to keep Whitworth out and the capable Anthony Collins in the game.
- Mohamed Sanu also left the game with a shoulder injury early in the third quarter, questionable to return.
- With 10:53 remaining in the second quarter, Rey Maualuga exploded through the line of scrimmage for a cage-rattling hit on Chris Ivory. It was the best tackle that I can ever remember Maualuga having.
- Mike Zimmer's game-plan to blitz Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker was clearly designed to rattle rookie quarterback Geno Smith; Nelson had one sack and nearly a second if not for Geno Atkins getting there first.
- Mohamed Sanu's 24-yard reception down the left sidelines was a thing of beauty. Dalton aired the football for Sanu, who kept both feet in-bounds on his reception.
- Had Marvin Jones not already been impressing the masses with his previous performances in recent weeks, I'd call Jones' performance against the Jets a breakout game, posting over 100 yards receiving in the first half alone. Let's go ahead and say it anyway.
CAPTAINS: Andy Dalton, Andrew Whitworth, Domata Peko, Reggie Nelson, Cedric Peerman, Vinnie Rey.