Bengals get jump on history and the present

OAKLAND, Calif. - The Bengals made more history than two presidential terms during Sunday's 33-13 Opening Day victory over the Raiders at The Ancient Coliseum as they won back-to-back openers for the first time in eight years.

"Is this the first time Mr. Brown ever won out here?" asked left end Carlos Dunlap after his sack helped shut out the Raiders for the first 53 minutes of the season.

Bengals president Mike Brown and his father, franchise founder Paul Brown, had never won here in 10 previous games until an old Raiders head coach, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, unleashed an old-fashioned  Bengals tight end Sunday named Tyler Eifert and he responded with one of the best games by a Bengals tight end in 20 years.

The Bengals rolled up the most points ever in 13 openers coached by the Bengals' Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton won his 20th road game where Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason, Carson Palmer had never won.

 In fact, it was in this building 40 years ago that Paul Brown coached his last game against the Al Davis-built Raiders in the 1975 playoffs. Jackson was fired here after one season as head coach of the Raiders in 2011 shortly after Davis died and he was found wandering a few hours before the game chatting with staff and fans.

"My thought was with Coach Davis and the time I spent with him and the conversations I had about football with him," Jackson said. "The guy was a tremendous football mind. I hate to say this. I don't draw comparisons, but Mike Brown strikes me that way. They're throwback guys. Football guys. They're great men."

But Jackson wouldn't get into how sweet it is.

"It's not about me, it's about our players," Jackson said. "It's about Andy and our offense."

Jackson rolled out his Sunday best as he challenged the Raiders with every formation known to Brown and Davis. On his way to career highs with 104 yards on nine catches, Eifert caught one touchdown out of the slot and one split wide as the Bengals put on that display of offensive versatility they had drawn up all offseason.

"Comfort zone," said Jackson, when asked what Eifert gives quarterback Andy Dalton. "It gives him another place to go. . . . I'm not surprised about anything Tyler does.  I think he's as good as anybody I've been around."

What difference does a year make? Last Opening Day Eifert was getting on the plane with a shattered elbow that would eventually claim his entire season. This Opening Day? He lugged back the first 100-yard Opening Day by a Bengals tight end since Tony McGee fueled the 1995 win in Indianapolis.  This is what everybody had planned for Eifert when he was drafted in the first round in 2013.

"I believe in myself. I know what I can do," Eifert said. "Its three years later and I haven't had that big game.  It's just a matter of going out there and getting it done."

Eifert also knew Jackson had some history here.

"We knew it meant something to him," Eifert said. "We didn't talk about it. But you could tell and we wanted to get it for him."

Dalton and Jackson have been joined at the hip this offseason, so Dalton knew.

"We definitely wanted to win this for him. You could tell how important it was," Dalton said. "He never said anything about it, but you know with him coaching here and everything it was big to get a win for him. I'm happy for him."

The gag at halftime was that Jackson had used up all his funky formations because he challenged new Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. right away. Empty backfield sets. Full backfields with wide receivers until they deployed to the line. Six-man lines. Six-man lines with a tackle split eligible. A normal number on the line with the tackles split.

"Oh, one or two," said Dalton with a straight face when asked how many formations Jackson called in the half.

"Quite a few. Just trying to scratch the surface," Jackson said. "I was trying to keep them off balance a little bit.  I thought it unsettled them and it gave us a chance to make some plays. Andy orchestrates it all and he did a tremendous job. He got everybody lined up again. It's his team. It's his offense."

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

Dalton also thought the varying formations had the Raiders a step behind.

"I mean we had different looks and different stuff. It's just kind of part of what we do," Dalton said. "I'm not going to put a number on it. I don't know how many but if there's we can get a matchup we're going to do it."

And that's where Eifert excels. They're going to keep doubling Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and, as Eifert noticed, they were playing with a safety high. A 31-yarder and an 18-yarder came down an unguarded seam.

"It opens up those seams, but not necessarily in the middle of the field," Eifert said.

When Eifert was in the slot early in the third quarter in the red zone, the 6-5 Eifert was simply too big for a 5-11 cornerback in D.J. Hayden. Hayden never turned his head and Eifert reached around him for an eight-yard touchdown catch. Theoretically, the corner should be able to cover him.

But Dalton shook his head. Eifert is simply, "Too big."

"I don't look at him covering me," Eifert said. "I'm looking at leverage and what the defense is and run the route how I'm coached. Andy let me go and make play, so that was good."

Dalton, in the throes of a 115.9 passer rating, easily found Eifert, as well as checking off to find a 30-yard slant to wide receiver AJ. Green on third-and-seven. As Eifert says, "It makes it hard on the defense."

 "It's like what are they going to do to A.J.?" Dalton asked. "And Tyler was able to get going and then its like are they going to do anything different? Are they going to change? We were still able to take advantage of some of the looks that we had. Tyler, I don't think he's going to surprise anybody anymore. He's a good player."

 Dalton also found Eifert with seven seconds left in the first half, another one he looped up there so Eifert could jump over the DB as he came roaring out of the perimeter. An awful matchup against a nickel reserve, someone named Neiko Thorpe, all of 6-1, and Dalton lofted it where only Eifert could get it.

Eifert's two TDs on Sunday matched his career output. But he was thinking about a couple of missed blocks.

"My thing is staying even keel," Eifert said. "Never get too high, never get too low. Just keep plugging along."

But he caught a little history Sunday to keep him going.

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