Andy Dalton and the Bengals cruised to a 37-3 win in Cleveland due in large part to Andy Dalton's superb playaction passes and receiver A.J. Green's ability to get separation at the line of scrimmage. For highlights and analysis of the Dalton-to-Green connection, check out the following video:
Dalton was 14/19 for 220 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He also ran four times for 11 yards including a touchdown and was only sacked once. Dalton's QB rating was 146.8 (a career high) and his QBR was 93.1. Dalton now has the highest QB rating in the NFL this season.
Dalton and the offense could have probably put up at least another 10 points in this game, but in the fourth quarter, they mostly tried to protect a 34-3 lead by running out the clock. What stood out about Dalton's performance was that it seemed effortless. Even if Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden had been able to play, the Browns were not going to stop Dalton and the Big Orange Machine. Cincinnati's quarterback was a perfect 5/5 on passes that traveled 15 yards or more and much of that was due to Dalton's mastery of the play-action pass. One example of this was the 57 yard completion to Green in the middle of the first quarter. Below is an analysis that was made possible with the help of Inside The Pylon's Brian Filipiak.
The Bengals start in an i-formation with running back Rex Burkhead set to block for running back Jeremy Hill and six offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage.
Dalton changed the play before the snap, with receiver Marvin Jones going from lining up out right to in the slot on the left, Burkhead lining up on the right and tackle Jake Fisher moving from the left side of the offensive line to the right side. It is worth noting that the Bengals ran the ball five times in six plays on the previous drive. So the Browns had to play the run. Also, moving Fisher created a certain degree of confusion simply because teams know that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson likes to get the big tackle involved in the passing game from time to time.
After the snap, Green's stutter step and his ability to fight through the handcheck of cornerback Tramon Williams allowed him to release outside.
Dalton faked the handoff to Hill, causing linebacker Nate Orchard to leave the assignment of covering Jones to free safety Tashaun Gipson. It's also worth noting that linebacker Craig Robertson continued to stay in the vicinity of Fisher instead of covering Hill, entrusting linebacker Karlos Dansby with that task.
But Gipson was drawn in by the deep dig or in-cut route by Jones, which meant he could not assist with Green, especially since Green's route was down the sideline and not closer to the numbers. As a result of the Bengals' play design and execution, four Browns defenders surrounded Jones in the middle of the field while Green would run free, getting great separation from Williams and picking up a huge gain.
Sunday the Bengals will get a chance to sweep the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time in Dalton's career. While Cincinnati's defense has looked dominant in recent weeks with the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict, it is unlikely they will be able to hold the Steelers to anything near the 12.3 points per game they've allowed on average in their last six contests. Thus, the team will need to score early and often. Dalton, who had a season low QBR of 27.9 in the previous matchup against the Steelers, will look to be turnover free this time around.
No change. Dalton took care of business by beating an overmatched Browns team on the road. Not having tight end Tyler Eifert available did not slow down the fifth year quarterback in the slightest. Instead it simply meant Dalton, who had his best statistical game of the season, decided to give a couple more slices of the touchdown pie to Green and Jones.