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Andy Dalton and Bengals offense needed a strong outing

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Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson had a rough week after a disastrous Thursday Night performance. While words like redemptions are a bit strong, it was a performance that everyone needed.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Following Andy Dalton's crushing performance (well, being crushed) against the Cleveland Browns, completing 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards passing and three interceptions, the questions were asked and the concerns were raised. Despite the defense collapsing and specialty players rehabilitating, the primary focus was Andy Dalton. Everything else was secondary.

"I see a team that’s been struggling," said CBS Sports analyst Trent Green earlier this week. "They are obviously coming off a tough loss, but they're only a half-game out of first place. So even though there have been struggles, the season is right there in front of them. It’s important for Andy Dalton to get back on track after his struggles last week. If A.J. Green is able to get back to where he was at the beginning of the season, health-wise, that will be a big factor as well. He has been back playing, he just hasn't been playing at the level he was prior to getting injured.

"From a defensive standpoint Cincinnati needs to do a better job stopping the run. When you think about the Saints, Mark Ingram had over 100 yards rushing in three consecutive games – so now they have some balance to the passing attack with Drew Brees and the receiving corps."

"At the risk of alienating the Bengal nation all over again, I'll say again what I said on this show a month ago; nice players, good coach, and a glass jaw, nothing has changed except for the quarterback, Andy Dalton looks like he's lost his mojo," said sports personality Jim Rome. "Once it's gone, how do you get it back?"

Indeed.

Pressure was mounting. Everyone was at fault, but it was Dalton that spiked Cincinnati's irritations. Justified or not, it's the role of a quarterback... which has always been the case in the NFL, and even college (where most awards are won by quarterbacks and the draft narration is usually "is he elite?").

Players. Defense. Dalton. Yes. And offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is approaching the belief that his career could be dictated by Dalton's future.

"I'm joined at the hip with him," said Jackson earlier this week. "I understand that's the way it goes. I have not run from that. As he gets killed, I get killed. That's the way it goes. That's part of the business."

Everyone needed a redemption-style game. Though the word is a bit strong, deflection and distraction after that 24-3 loss in Cincinnati was needed.

With Cincinnati beating New Orleans 27-10, on the heels of a strong rushing offense, an efficient passing game and an impressive showing on defense, these matters slip into hibernation. Mercifully, criticisms have morphed into compliments and celebratory handshakes.

It was Green, who had missed three games fought through two others during his recovery, returning back to form.

"Coach Hue wanted me to get back to the old A.J. Be great. Dominate my man every play," Green said via Bengals.com. "Nobody has said that to me in a long time. I took that to heart. I came out there and worked my butt off last week and it showed today."

Green led the team with 127 yards receiving on six grabs and a touchdown.

No more important was Green's participation during Cincinnati's possession early in the fourth quarter. New Orleans scored a touchdown to reduce the Bengals lead 20-10 within the first minute of the final period. Green, despite being called for a mythical offensive pass interference, hauled in a 38-yard reception that converted third and 18 with 13:49 remaining in the third quarter.

One could, and maybe should, argue that it was the play of the game.

Three plays later, Green hauled in an 18-yarder to convert a third-and-two with 12:16 remaining, setting up a first down from the New Orleans 24-yard line.

Good night.

Green posted 80 yards receiving during the possession -- or 63 percent of his total production. Dalton, who completed 16 passes and recorded a career-high 143.9 passer rating with 220 yards passing and three touchdowns, went three of four in the fourth quarter.

These two are hardly the stars of this game.

Running back Jeremy Hill pounded out 152 yards rushing and was clearly a Bourbon Street star on Sunday... though everyone should be buying drinks for the Cincinnati Bengals defense, who held the second-ranked offense to 330 yards -- 105 yards below their season-average.

Either way, this was a win that everyone needed.