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Bengals fill Black Hole with Eifert


OAKLAND, Calif. - In his return trip to The Black Hole, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wasted no time emptying the kitchen sink on Cincinnati's first series of the season and then tight end Tyler Eifert supplied the hammer by establishing career highs of nine catches for 104 yards as the Bengals rolled to a 33-13 Opening Day victory over the Raiders.

As if to showcase the Bengals' dizzying array of offensive versatility, Eifert tortured Raiders in and out of the slot and owned the middle of the field with two touchdowns and the second 100-yard game by a Bengals tight end since 1995. Jermaine Gresham did it in 2012, a year before the Bengals took Eifert in the first round out of Notre Dame.

In the most complete effort of head coach Marvin Lewis' 13 Opening Days, the defense stalked the club's first shutout in 48 Opening Days after they knocked out quarterback Derek Carr out of the game with a hand injury late in the quarter while coming up with two turnovers. The shutout bid ended when  Carr's  backup, Matt McGloin, threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to fullback Marcel Reese with 7:55 left in the game.

Quarterback Andy Dalton helped the Bengals to their first win ever here in 11 tries and six quarterbacks when he hit 25 of 34 passes for 269 yards, no picks and the TDs to Eifert for a 115.9  passer rating as the offensive line barely allowed any of the baseball dirt on Dalton's No. 14 jersey. After three quarters, Raiders super sophomore defensive end Khalil Mack was not among his team leaders in tackles.

Eifert launched himself over cornerback D.J. Hayden to make a spectacular eight-yard touchdown catch with 3:42 left in the third quarter to make it 30-0 after Mike Nugent had his extra point blocked. With Hayden's back to the quarterback, Eifert reached around him to grab the ball.

Then defensive tackle Geno Atkins came up with his first sack of the season and, in a reunion, with his partner in crime, right end Michael Johnson, Johnson recovered Atkins' forced fumble from backup Matt McGloin at the Raiders 17. From there Nugent hit a 35-yarder with 1:25 left in the third quarter.

Eifert's leaping 13-yard touchdown catch over cornerback Neiko Thorpe with seven seconds left in the first half gave the Bengals a 24-0 half-time lead and capped a 56-second drive that covered 61 yards and was ignited by the other player of the game, cornerback Adam Jones and his 18-yard punt return.

Jackson, fired after his one season as the Raiders head coach in 2011, had the faithful booing its club off the field at halftime after Dalton hit 18 of 23 passes for 202.

It was a classic ugly 1970s game at the Coliseum with penalty flag and bodes flying and Adam Jones came up with the play of the day as the Bengals more than matched the home-field intensity. Moments after he was one of two players called for unnecessary roughness after the Raiders saw a 62-yard run negated by a hold, Jones came up to drill Carr one-yard shy of a first down on a third-and-nine scramble when he not only knocked the ball out of Carr's hands to set up a fourth-and-one, but he knocked Carr out of the game with a hand injury. He was classified as questionable early in the third quarter but he never came back.

Cincinnati Bengals take on the Oakland Raiders in regular season week 1 09/13/2015

The Raiders were four-for-four on fourth down last year. But not in '15. Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims, who had played the last two seasons in Oakland, was on the bottom of the fourth-and-one pile at the Oakland and joined by middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.

On third-and-seven from the Raiders 41, Dalton hit wide receiver A.J. Green on a slant and he racked about 15 yards after the catch for a 30-yard gain. The Raiders couldn't cover him. Cornerback D.J. Hayden mauled him in the end zone for a third-down holding call and running back Jeremy Hill cashed his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard run to make it 17-0 with 2:21 left in the half.

McGloin had no luck as left end Carlos Dunlap rung up the Bengals' first sack of the year and it set up that microwave TD that ended the first half. Running back Giovani Bernard did the bulk of the work bobbing and weaving on the run and catch.  Naturally, Eifert started it catching an 18-yarder over the middle. Then Bernard ran a draw for 13 yards, caught one on the sideline to scoot for 14 more yards, and then caught another pass for 13 more on the sideline to stop the clock at 18 seconds.

It should have been 28-0, but Green dropped what would have been a 20-yard touchdown pass when he fried cornerback T.J. Carrie down the right sideline on a stutter step and Dalton put it right over his shoulder but he dropped it and Nugent kicked a 32-yard field goal with 5:42 left in the first half to make it 10-0. Dalton hit Eifert for a 31-yard wide-open seam ball in the drive to set up Nugent.

With 7:15 left in the first quarter, Hill found nothing up the middle and he scooted to his left, where he ran out of penetrating linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong's tackle and then he beat diving linebacker Ben Heeney on the perimeter to walk in.

Working out of a plethora of formations, Dalton hit his first four throws for 29 yards, three of them to Eifert. He hit a wide open for Eifert for 12 yards when the tackles were split out before they moved back in to their normal splits.

Jackson also deployed his receivers in the backfield a few times before they switched and lined up on the line. Jackson also rolled out a six-man offensive line with rookie Jake Fisher and Hill picked up six yards behind it on a sweep and finished the first drive with 27 yards on six carries and finished the half with 41 yards on nine carries.  It was just a 59-yard drive when returner Adam Jones rushed up field to catch Marquette King's 39-yard punt.

The defense also started well and forced two punts on the first two series. Carr tried to go up tempo with short drops, but he missed four of his seven passes with cornerback Adam Jones defending a couple of passes. Jones was immense leading everyone with seven tackles in the first half.

On the Bengals second series Dalton tried a bomb to Green beating Hayden down the right side but it was overthrown by a couple of yards. On second down, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was open on a slant, but defensive end Justin Tuck knocked it down. On third down Dalton had to throw to a seven-yard check down to Eifert and that set up a nice punt by Kevin Huber that forced a fair catch at the Raiders 7.

But the Bengals let them get out of the hole when safety George Iloka came up with a great hit on rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper's first NFL catch, a short one over the middle. But Iloka was flagged 15 yards for taunting. Yet when the Raiders took an unnecessary shot on Iloka's ankle a few plays later, the Bengals came up with a third-down stop. They lined up linebacker Chris Carter at left end and with the Raiders using a back to help out left tackle Donald Penn on Carter, Carr overthrew wide receiver Michael Crabtree covered by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on the sideline.

Iloka left on the hit to the ankle and his return was downgraded from probable to out.     

The Bengals defense flexed its muscles by holding the Raiders to two first downs on seven third-down tries while Carr was just seven of 12 passing for 61 yards in the half.

Safety Reggie Nelson picked off a McGloin heave in the middle of the field early in the third quarter, his 16th pick as a Bengal.

PRE-GAME NOTES: The Bengals deactivated three defensive linemen and two wide receivers for Sunday's opener against the Raiders at Coliseum, but that still left them with plenty of both in what they hope would be robust rotations.

Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson and defensive end Margus Hunt were inactive, along with rookie defensive tackle Marcus Hardison, ruled out Friday with a knee injury. Sitting Thompson is a bit of a surprise. He had been fighting a foot injury two weeks ago, but he played in the pre-season finale and wasn't on this week's injury report. That still leaves them backing up tackles Geno Atkins and Domata Peko with Pat Sims, a Raider for the two previous seasons.

It turned into a well-earned start for right end Michael Johnson in his return season from Tampa Bay. He sprained his MCL on Aug. 2, the first day of contact, and didn't return full until practice last week.

Also inactive were wide receivers Greg Little and rookie Mario Alford, but running back Rex Burkhead lined up often as a slot receiver in the preseason , as did running back Giovani Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert.

With Eifert, rookie Tyler Kroft, and H-Back Ryan Hewitt suited up, they had three tight ends available even though rookie C.J. Uzomah was inactive. Plus, backup tackles Eric Winston and Jake Fisher were also available to serve in that role.

Rookie cornerback Josh Shaw, who injured his groin in Thursday's practice, was also inactive.

The family of late Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler lit the torch at one end of The Coliseum just before the kickoff.

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