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Bengals rely on running back duo against the Falcons

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Despite several components missing, Cincinnati's offense thrived on Sunday by relying on their running back duo who accounted for 56 percent of the team's total production.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in as many games, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton can hang his spotless jersey inside his locker. Spotless. Wrinkle-free. During Cincinnati's 24-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Dalton wasn't sacked and suffered only one hit. That mirrors last week when Dalton was held upright against the Ravens, victim of one hit by Baltimore's defense. You can credit the offensive line, the offensive game-plan and Dalton's overall growth recognizing defensive schemes and blitzes.

"The offensive line played really well tonight," said Dalton on Sunday. "It’s what you need to have. For the offense, we were really balanced today. When we got up to a lead in the second half, we really had a focus on running the ball, trying to get first downs. We did a good job of that."

According to ESPN Stats and Information (via Coley Harvey), Dalton completed six of nine passes against the blitz, for 163 yards passing and a touchdown. One of those plays included the 76-yard touchdown flip to Mohamed Sanu while staring down an all-out blitz.

"I knew they were bringing all-out pressure there, so one guy’s going to be unblocked," said Dalton. "We had a good check on and Mo ran a really good route. When you're playing cover zero and you make one guy miss, there’s nobody else in the back end. When he fell off on the route, Mo had a pretty job in the end zone."

Dalton generated 252 yards on 15 completions with a 116.6 passer rating, all while missing three major components of his offense. With tight end Tyler Eifert (elbow) and wide receiver Marvin Jones (foot) already out, A.J. Green left the first quarter with a toe injury. That's 23 combined touchdowns from last season... gone. Dalton has completed 65.6 percent of his passes (40/61) on the season, for 553 yards passing, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 105.4.

But Sunday's performance didn't rely on the pass... Dalton only attempted 23 passes. It was Hue Jackson's philosophy against the Falcons to feature his one-two punch at running back. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 42 attempts for 164 yards rushing, with each back scoring a touchdown. It was the type of performance that Hill expected coming into the league.

"I think that is what they envisioned when they drafted me, for Gio (Bernard) and I to be a one-two punch," said Hill. "I think him and I complement each other well. Anytime he got a little tired, I came in and spelled him, and he did the same thing for me. I think we did a great job of that. I think we are really starting to build some chemistry together. We are roommates at the hotel. We are going to be a duo to be dealt with this year. I’m excited and looking forward to it."

Factoring in the receiving yards, of the 472 yards generated by Cincinnati's offense, Bernard and Hill were responsible for 265 (56.1 percent).

"It’s always fun, having the ball in our hands," said Giovani Bernard, who generated a career-high 169 yards from scrimmage. "We did a good job, I think. Jeremy (Hill) came in, and we switched it up a little bit, and we definitely think we caught them off guard. The offensive line did a tremendous job making those holes for us, and it all starts up front."

Giovani Bernard Jeremy Hill
Total Yards 169 96
Rushing Yards 90 74
Receiving Yards 79 22
Touchdowns 1 1
Yds/Touch 5.3 5.6