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Beat goes on as Bengals switch it up


When Seattle shaded A.J. Green in coverage, tight end Tyler Eifert beat them.

Another game decided at the end with an Andy Dalton flourish, this one with 20 points in the last 23:40 of a 27-24 overtime victory over Seattle. Another bonding moment for Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson with his quarterback now emerging as an MVP candidate.

It will be recalled that in the last moments of the 28-24 victory in Baltimore two weeks ago in which the Bengals erased two deficits in the final seven  minutes or so, Dalton and Jackson were firing off wisecracks.

On Sunday against Seattle when the Bengals fell behind, 24-7, in the middle of the third quarter on running back Rex Burkhead's fumble that turned into Bobby Wagner's 23-yard fumble return TD, Dalton took a new tact.

Jackson felt miserable. On Monday he second-guessed his decision to run Burkhead in motion for the handoff deep in Bengals territory against Seattle's band of penetrators.

"He had to pick the old ball coach up yesterday. After that fumble I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'" Jackson revealed Monday.  "And he comes over and he says, 'Look, Coach, there's a lot of time left. Let's go win this game. We're going to win this game.' That was Andy Dalton. He was going up and down the sideline doing that, where I was kind of sulking about a bad call that I felt I made. He's like 'Nuh uh, let's go.' And then you look up and we're right back in the game."

And Jackson went to bat for him Monday, objecting to the way defensive tackle Michael Bennett roughed up Dalton after he threw his end-zone interception late in the first half. Bennett basically took a free shot at him on the ground in a WWF move that earned a flag and cost Seattle a chance at a touchdown.

"I don't condone Michael Bennett going after our quarterback like he did," Jackson said.  "He's a tremendous football player and someone that you have to really plan for. He's even scarier in person than he is on videotape.

"There's nothing you can really do. I think Marvin (Lewis) didn't really appreciate it, I don't think I appreciated it, I don't think anybody appreciated it . . . I think it's something (the offensive line)  mentioned to themselves. Trust me. You don't have to say those things. Those things don't go unnoticed. It was a battle-royal."

The good times keep rolling. The Bengals remain second in the NFL in offense, Dalton is first in yards, third in passer rating behind only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and the Bengals are on pace to smash the franchise records for points and yards in a season.

Dalton's toughness (the Bengals allowed four sacks for the first time in 51 weeks) elicited another rendevous with Jackson after he took as shot at the end of regulation and limped off the field so Mike Nugent could take over.

Jackson described it like this:

"He comes running off and I'm sure you guys saw him gimp off. I'm like 'Are you OK?' He goes, (wheezing and raspy) 'Yeah, I'm OK.' I go, 'Are you sure?' He goes 'Coach, that's why I wear rib pads.' OK. All right buddy. He's tough. He's been through it. I can't be happier with the way he's playing and leading and challenging his teammates."

And the Bengals keep showing an inordinate amount of flexibility in a passing game that has yet to be stopped. Dalton's 9.5 yards per pass are second best in the league.

The Bengals had to adjust to do it during the game against a Seattle defense that has led the NFL in least points and yards allowed the last two seasons. They not only broke a tendency and put cornerback Richard Sherman on Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green all over the field, but they also occasionally popped into a two-deep zone because they were so concerned about the Bengals' deep play possibilities.

And a lot of times there was a safety cheating to Green, something the eight-in-the-box Seahawks usually disdain.

Last year, if the Bengals had trouble running the ball, double coverage of Green doomed them because of their lack of weapons.

 "Honestly, I didn't think they would," said Jackson of the Seattle shift. "Everybody was wondering what happens if A.J. goes over, are we going to be able to make things happen?  I think what happens is twofold: you can, but you also have other guys that can make plays. So we've been able to stay within our practice structure without making wholesale changes to keep playing.

"So it kind of works sometimes to our benefit. Not that we don't want to get the ball to A.J. He's a very important part of what we do. But sometimes people are going to take him away and when they do, we don't want to become one-dimensional, just always trying to force the ball to him, because we have other guys that can make plays."

Cincinnati Bengals host Seattle Seahawks at Paul Brown Stadium in week 5 of the regular season.

Presto. Dalton didn't hook up with Green from eight minutes left in the first half until overtime. He caught one ball in the last 50 minutes, the Bengals averaged 3.5 yards rush, and they still put up 27 points and 419 yards.

Hello tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver Marvin Jones, who combined for 13 catches, 151 yards and two touchdowns.It's not that the Bengals lead the NFL with 25 completions of at least 20 yards, it is that a total of eight players have contributed.

Take Eifert's two touchdowns, which were pretty much unmolested in the seam, one from 14 yards and from 10 yards.

"(Green) influences a lot of plays. Against us sometimes, you've got to play it pretty balanced just because we do have guys that can make those plays," Jackson said. "Eifert, Jones, Gio (Bernard), all my guys. I feel good about where we're headed."

Not only did the Bengals adjust to the coverages, they showed they can run the ball in multi-receiver, one-back spreads with Bernard, as opposed to the two-back sets that running back Jeremy Hill used to lead the NFL in rushing the last half of last season.

Bernard has just 11 more carries than Hill, but Hill is averaging just three yards per carry while Bernard is second in the AFC in rushing yards while chewing up 5.5 yards per carry. Bernard's one-back stuff has been on the field for about 55 percent of the time, but it's not like Hill has been benched because he's been out there for about 42 percent of the snaps.

On Monday, Jackson said there'll be a time during the season the work of the backs will "flip."

"Jeremy hasn't had the success that he had a year ago, and I think that's what everybody's looking for. But Jeremy's playing and playing well," Jackson said. "Jeremy's still our starting tailback. Everybody has seen over the last couple games that Gio has got more carries, more opportunities than Jeremy. Well eventually that's going to flip. I'm just being very honest with you guys. Eventually it will. It's not going to stay the same and it's not going to keep happening like its happening. That's just people you play, defenses you face, opportunities come up and you've got to make the most of them, and that's what Gio has done."

Jackson says there are different casts for different teams and so far, it seems, it hasn't been a great match for down-hill running. Two weeks ago the Ravens dared Dalton to beat them with eight in the box, the Seahawks are notoriously tough to run against what Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham has called a 4-4 defense with safety Kam Chancellor basically a linebacker and are now ranked seventh against the run, and a monstrous Bills front seven ranked third against the run waits in Buffalo this Sunday.

"Certain games are going to have different personalities," Jackson said. "We will have to because of who we're playing. You have to play that way. The fun part about our group is we can play a lot of different ways, and that's what makes the versatility that we have on our team really good."

 But Jackson wants to run the ball better, particularly downhill, after they rushed for just 37 yards on 16 carries in the first three quarters. Things loosened up for 72 yards on the next 15 carries, but he wants consistency. Yet he and left tackle Andrew Whitworth say it will happen.

"The more you play, the better it gets and as the season goes guys start to make business decisions," said Whitworth, alluding to defenders pulling up from contact.

And, don't forget. The Bengals are still a top ten running team at No. 10.

"I always hang with the running game," Jackson said. "It did enough. I keep saying sometimes with the running game it's not about the numbers, it's about the attempts . . . The numbers will come. I'm not worried about where the numbers will be.  They will be what they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there."

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