The Cincinnati Bengals’ offense is showing the defense that they can win football games too. In what was expected to be a defensive game against the Detroit Lions last Sunday, the offenses went toe-to-toe in one of Andy Dalton’s best performances to date as the Bengals enjoyed another game-ending field goal victory.
Andy Dalton enjoyed another great offensive outing with three touchdown passes, one a 82-yard catch-and-run to Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green, a 32-yard pass to TE Tyler Eifert for his first touchdown catch of his career, and an aerial display by Marvin Jones for a 12-yard td catch.
This is the second week in a row that Dalton has had three or more touchdown passes as he becomes more comfortable with the players around him and confident in their abilities, especially Marvin Jones.
Jones has stepped up as the Bengals’ number two receiver with a 56-yard performance against Detroit and a career-best 71-yard, one touchdown game the previous week against Buffalo. Jones has already surpassed many of his receiving statistics from 2012 with four fewer games and zero starts. His fearless ability to go all out on plays is what helped him catch his third td pass of the year last week which is two more than he had all of last season.
Mohamed Sanu, who many thought would be Dalton’s primary target behind A.J. Green has had a slow start this season and has yet to have a touchdown catch. Both Jones and Sanu have comparable numbers meaning that Dalton is not afraid to spread the ball around the field; something he was hesitant about last season.
Last season, three players had more than 50 catches, A.J Green (97), Jermaine Gresham (64), and Andrew Hawkins (51). After that, the closest player was BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 22 catches. Close to the half-way point in 2013, the Bengals would have four players with the more than 50 catches and two others close behind. This can be contributed to the progression of Dalton in his third year and the offensive unit playing better as a whole.
Let’s take a look at a comparison of the offense over the last two years:
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Although the Bengals’ defense has been good this year, it hasn’t been the dominating force that makes quarterbacks second guess their career the way it did last year. So far this year, the defensive unit is ranked 9th in total yards at 334 which is down from the 6th ranking in 2012 with 320 yards per game. And with another huge injury to the secondary with Leon Hall out for the season, opposing teams might be going to the air more.
And look at the sack totals and turnovers from last season. The Bengals finished 3rd in the NFL with 51 sacks in 2012, and with nearly half a season left in 2013 the Bengals are in a four-way tie for 16th with 18 sacks for a projected 42 sack total on the year.
The defense this year has 10 turnovers with an even 5-5 split coming from interceptions and fumble recoveries. Last year’s unit finished with 30 turnovers, 14 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries; again, the secondary is hurting which will bring the numbers down but how do you let Vontaze Burfict lead your team in interceptions? Granted, he is in a five-way tie with other players but still.
If the offense and defense continue to play the same – especially the last few weeks – then there is a good chance the offense is what will take this team deep into the post season and not the defense that many (including myself) predicted.
It is early to make conclusions, and the Bengals’ offense has less of a track record than the defense. Andy Dalton still hasn’t shown he can throw a strong deep ball – and no, the 82-yard td pass to Green last week doesn’t prove it – and the running game has yet to have a big game.
But, if these uncertainties means that the Bengals will finish out the second half the same as the first, I think Bengals’ fans would be more than happy with a 12-4 record. That is only because we can count this week’s game against the New York Jets as another win.