LANDOVER, Md. — The Bengals pulled everything out of their bag in Sunday's first half except the Fifth Amendment here on the outskirts of Washington D.C and were rewarded with a 38-31 win over Redskins at FedExField before 80,060.
After watching the Redskins tie the game at 24 late in the third quarter, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton responded with two huge scoring drives and hit slot receiver Andrew Hawkins in stride down the seam for a 59-yard touchdown play that made it a two-score game at 38-24 with 7:04 left. Hawkins, who got his first TD last week on a 50-yarder, scorched cornerback Richard Crawford down the middle and Dalton put it right in his stomach for his second consecutive game of three touchdown passes and 300 yards as he hit 19 of 27 passes for 328 yards.
Dalton then watched as Washington drove 90 yards in 12 plays capped by quarterback Robert Griffin III's one-yard quarterback sneak that cut the Bengals lead to 38-31 with 3:35 left. On the ensuing onside kick, the Redskins were called for an illegal touch as the ball did not travel 10 yards. The Bengals took over at the Washington 44 and after three plays netted eight yards, opted for a Kevin Huber punt that was downed by Andrew Hawkins at the Washington 2 with 1:47 left.
The Redskins drove to the Cincinnati 19-yard line but a Geno Atkins sack followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Washington pushed the ball all the way back to the Washington 41. A desperation pass by Griffin III on the game's final play was batted down and the Bengals had the victory secured.
With the game tied at 24 early in the fourth quarter, Dalton responded with a drive of five completions capped by tight end Jermaine Gresham's six-yard touchdown catch in which he didn't get in the end zone and shoved the ball over the goal line to give the Bengals a 31-24 lead with 11:24 left.
The score came courtesy of a 31-yard beauty down the sideline to wide receiver A.J. Green, romping to a career day of nine catches for 183 yards, and it became more when Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall was called for a personal foul. Also chipping into the drive was rookie tight end Orson Charles's first NFL catch, a leaping 24-yarder in traffic.
The Bengals defense rode the terrific play of right end Michael Johnson. He chased Griffin III to the Mason-Dixon Line for three sacks and he forced a three-and-out after the Bengals went up 31-24 when he tipped the third-down pass.
As thoroughly as the Bengals dominated the Redskins in the first half to take a 24-10 halftime lead, Washington buried the Bengals in the third quarter with two tying touchdowns on drives totaling 19 plays while the Bengals were just taking three snaps as the game veered into the third quarter at 24-all.
Part of the carnage involved Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis's first NFL fumble. Before that, Griffin III hit wide receiver Santana Moss for a three-yard touchdown to tie at 24 late in the third quarter on a drive of 5:28 that basically featured Griffin III running the option.
The Redskins took the second half's opening kickoff and went 80 yards on nine plays in 4:37 in a drive that saw a penalty called on cornerback Adam Jones for a horse-collar tackle and left end Robert Geathers had running back Alfred Morris for a two-yard loss in the backfield and let him escape for a seven-yard touchdown run.
BENGALS PULL OUT THE STOPS IN FIRST HALF
The Bengals fittingly capped off their wild and wooly first half when Green-Ellis took a direct snap for a one-yard touchdown run with 3:13 left after Green ran a reverse for 11 yards.
And that came after Bengals left end Carlos Dunlap made one of those seemingly inhuman plays only he can make in his first game back since injuring his knee in the Aug. 10 preseason opener. Primarily working on passing downs, Dunlap crunched (and sacked) Griffin III the instant he took a shotgun snap, batted the ball out of his hands and then won the scrum for the ball at the Redskins 12 to punctuate a 30-minute vindication for the much-maligned Bengals defense.
The Bengals didn't get really nicked in the half against the NFL's highest-scoring team with Washington's touchdown coming on an end-zone interception and Billy Cundiff's 36-yard field goal late in the half coming off a bad special teams penalty.
On the kickoff following BJE's TD to make it 24-7, safety Jeromy Miles was offsides and Brandon Banks took the re-kick 55 yards to give a smothered Washington offense life.
After giving up 71 points and 869 yards in the first two games, the Bengals defense stepped up against RGIII and his offense scoring two points per minute. With right end Michael Johnson getting back-to-back sacks, new outside linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Vincent Rey stalking Griffin on the perimeter, and cornerback Nate Clements moving to some safety as the Bengals responded to the loss of cornerback Leon Hall, the Bengals sacked Griffin four times and held him to 5-of-10 passing for 36 yards and were successful on five of six third-down tries.
While holding the 'Skins to 41 yards in the first quarter, the Bengals offense hogged the ball for the opening minutes of the second quarter (and had it nearly 18 minutes in the half) and threatened to go up 21-7 when their no-huddle offense generated two runs of 11 and seven yards for backup running back Brian Leonard.
But the drive (kept alive by Dalton's third-down dart to Gresham over the middle) gummed up in the red zone. On second down, Dalton held the ball in the pocket looking for receivers and took a sack off a delayed rush from the right edge. But the Bengals eschewed field goal from the 5 and Huber, the holder, lost a yard when he tried to run it in.
The Bengals beat the Redskins to the punch Sunday when rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu lined up as a Wildcat quarterback on the game's first snap, faked a handoff, and gunned a 73-yard touchdown strike to Green running past Hall to deflate a home opener crowd.
It was the longest TD pass for the Bengals since Terrell Owens caught a 78-yarder in Cleveland in 2010.
But then just as quickly, the Redskins turned the tables when the Bengals were backed up on their own 2 on a second-and-nine thanks to a 58-yard punt. Dalton was hit in the back as he threw by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan coming in from the right side untouched. The ball fluttered, tipped of the hands of Green-Ellis in the flat and linebacker Rob Jackson picked it off for the touchdown to make it a wild 7-7 in the game's first four minutes.
The Bengals got backed up on the 1 when return Brandon Tate didn't come up and catch the punt.
Then on Cincinnati's next drive, Gresham atoned for a false start by catching his season-long 22-yard pass down the seam on the next snap. Dalton hit Green out of the pocket on a scramble to his right for a 14-yard gain, but the drive stalled on a third-down coverage sack when Dalton went down for an NFL-high 11th time this season.
But Dalton kept channeling his best RG III, finishing the half 10-of-15 for 152 yards. When Sanu missed a crack-back block on running back Bernard Scott's first carry of the season for an eight-yard loss on a sweep, Dalton got 17 of it back on a scramble up the middle to set up a third-and-one, and Hawkins got the first down when he scooted left out of the backfield for an 11-yard gain.
Then after a holding call on center Jeff Faine, Dalton saw the blitz and threw a quick out to wide receiver Armon Binns on the left sideline, where cornerback Josh Wilson whiffed on the tackle. With nobody behind him Binns streaked all the way for his first NFL touchdown, a 48-yarder that gave the Bengals a 14-7 lead with 3:28 left in the first quarter.
Green had four catches for 104 yards at halftime and came back after he got the wind knocked out of him on the reverse. It was Green's first 100-yard game since Dec. 18 in St. Louis.
PREGAME NOTES: Bengals cornerback Leon Hall's calf problem didn't improve as much as much as the Bengals had hoped and he was scratched for Sunday's game against the Redskins at FedExField.
Hall, who tweaked the calf during a blitz drill when he leaped to knock down a pass in Wednesday's practice, has only missed seven games in his six NFL seasons and that was because of last season's torn Achilles.
Both defenses are officially decimated. Hall, Cincinnati's best cornerback, joins the team's best linebacker, Thomas Howard, on the shelf. Last week the Redskins suffered two major season-ending injuries when they lost their best linebacker in Brian Orakpo, and ther best defensive lineman in end Adam Carriker.
Getting the start for Hall is 10-year veteran Terence Newman, a former Cowboy who played against the Redskins twice a season for the last nine seasons. Of his 32 career interceptions five came in Newman's first five games against Washington from 2003-05.
With Hall out, the Bengals kept every other defensive back active, including Jason Allen, in uniform for the first time as a Bengal after battling a thigh injury most of the preseason. They also kept active rookie safety George Iloka, presumably for special teams.
The concern for Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III appeared to surface on the inactive sheet. The Bengals activated their newest player, defensive end Wallace Gilberry after he joined them for Wednesday's practice. Rookie defensive tackle Brandon Thompson was inactive for the first time this season.
Also inactive for the first time this season was rookie wide receiver Marvin Jones. Fellow rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu was active after being active and not playing last week. Inactive for the third straight week were wide receiver Ryan Whalen, tight ends Donald Lee and Richard Quinn, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
The best way to contend with Griffin is probably keeping him off the field, but he's piloting one of the best ball-control teams in the NFL with an average possession time of 33:53. It's been a good formula to take heat off a battered defense that dating back to last year has allowed an average of more than 350 yards in its last seven games.
With the Bengals giving up 71 points and 869 yards in their first two games, the Redskins have no doubt taken note. It's the most points the Bengals have allowed in the first two games of a season during head coach Marvin Lewis's 10 years, tying the 1-1 start in 2007.
While eyes are on the guys replacing Hall at corner, the key lies with the safeties. Griffin has thrown touchdown bombs of 68 and 88 yards this season, both off play-action passes where safeteys bit on the play-fake.