Andy Dalton and the Bengals' offense dissected Cleveland's defense in a 31-10 blowout win over the Browns in Cincinnati by working in perfect harmony. For a look at Dalton's near-perfect performance and the efficient monster the Bengals have become, check out the following video:
Dalton was 21/27 (a season best 77.8 percent) for 234 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He ran six times for five yards and was sacked twice. Dalton's 139.8 QB rating was his highest of the year and he surpassed a QBR of 85 for the fifth time this season with a mark of 85.3.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Dalton's marvelous performance was how casual (and almost boring) it was. While that was partly because of his overall superb play this year, it was also because yards came quite easy to the Bengals. Dalton averaged over 11 yards per completion even though Cincinnati's longest pass play went for only 29 yards. In other words, he was consistently able to move the ball without difficulty. And in a truly balanced passing attack, Dalton targeted Marvin Jones (5 receptions, 78 yards), Tyler Eifert (5 receptions, 53 yards, 3 touchdowns) and A.J. Green (4 receptions, 53 yards) six times each. Dalton and his receivers were on the same page throughout the game and ran Hue Jackson's offensive gameplan to perfection. One example of this was Eifert's third touchdown catch of the game.
Dalton wanted to get Eifert matched up one-on-one with a corner on the left. So the first step was to send Green to the right. The Bengals initially showed run, with Eifert blocking for running back Giovani Bernard and a second tight end, Ryan Hewitt, lined up on the left.
And then, in one swift move, Dalton switched to a shotgun formation and moved Jones to the right slot, Eifert to the left and Hewitt to the right. Initially, linebacker Barkevious Mingo headed to his right to cover Eifert and cornerback Tramon Williams began to follow Jones.
But Hewitt quickly returned to the left side of the line, so Mingo had to line up over Hewitt again to avoid giving Bernard a huge hole on the left. And, with only seven seconds remaining on the play clock, Williams stayed put to guard Eifert instead of following Jones.
Free safety Tashaun Gipson quickly told strong safety Ibraheim Campbell to move up to cover Jones. Gipson then moved back to play Green and Jones deep. At that point, Dalton had the matchup he wanted.
Dalton and Eifert executed the play perfectly. When Dalton pump faked, Eifert simultaneously faked inside, freezing Mingo and causing Williams to lose his position with no help deep. Dalton and Eifert then connected for an easy 19-yard touchdown.
Dalton and the Bengals get to stay home for their next game, a Monday night matchup against the Houston Texans. While the Texans have had a rough season due to instability at the quarterback position and the absence of their star running back, Arian Foster, you can expect the Bengals to take this game very seriously. Houston knocked Cincinnati out of the playoffs after both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. And the first loss was to backup T.J. Yates, not nearly the quarterback Brian Hoyer is. Also, while the Browns game was technically a primetime game, it was broadcast by the NFL Network. So the Week 10 matchup, to be aired by ESPN, will be viewed by far more football fans. Lastly, defensive end J.J. Watt (8.5 sacks) always poses problems and is capable of taking a game over by himself, as Dalton is fully aware.
Upward. In Week 8 against the Steelers, Dalton had his worst statistical performance of the year. But he bounced back with a statement game against Cleveland, setting season highs in completion percentage and QB rating. More importantly, Dalton had not looked more comfortable all year. He never saw the need to throw a pass he didn't like, and thus, was never in danger of turning over the ball. Expect Dalton and the Big Orange Machine to continue their efficient, prolific ways against the Texans.