JACKSONVILLE — Capping off his second straight fourth-quarter comeback, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton led a late scoring drive that resulted in Bernard Scott's two-yard touchdown run to give the Bengals a 23-20 lead with 1:56 remaining. A 10-yard fumble return by defensive tackle Geno Atkins on the final play resulted in the final score of 30-20, and Cincinnati moves to 3-2 on the season.
With a swirling wind at their back that gusted beyond 20 miles per hour in the fourth quarter, the Bengals tried to take advantage of deferring the opening kick by taking advantage of the elements Sunday at EverBank Field.
While the Bengals did have the advantage of the wind at their backs in the fourth quarter, it was actually the Jaguars that elected to take the wind in the third quarter.
"They decided to take the wind in the third quarter; not my call," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said.
It ended up working out better for the Bengals as they used the wind to score 10 fourth-quarter points on offense after going scoreless in the third quarter.
A 22-yard punt with five minutes left in the game put the ball on the Jags 23 with five minutes left and the Bengals trailing, 20-16. Dalton, finishing 21-of-33 passing for 179 yards, steered the Bengals to the 10 with 2:40 left when he hit tight end Jermaine Gresham on a fourth-and-six pass for nine yards.
On third down from the 2, running back Bernard Scott scored his first touchdown of the season on the right side.
The Jaguars had delivered a killing play on a simple blown coverage that had nothing to do with wind. The Bengals had just taken a 16-13 lead with 9:41 left, but the NFL's worst pass offense stunned the NFL's top defense a minute later when no one covered wide receiver Jason Hill for a stunning 74-yard touchdown from rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert that gave the Jags a 20-16 lead with 8:40 left in the game with their first second half-touchdown of the season.
Cornerback Leon Hall let Hill go in what looked to be a zone defense, but it appeared safety Reggie Nelson, the former Jaguar didn't get there.
Mike Nugent broke a 13-13 tie with 9:41 left after the Bengals failed to get a first down following Brandon Tate's 19-yard punt return. It was Tate that set up the Bengals touchdown at the end of the first half with a 22-yarder.
The wind claimed Nugent's extra point at the end of the second quarter, banging it off the right upright to make it 13-13 at the half.
Showing all the reasons Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wanted Dalton in the second round, his quarterback rolled right on third-and-goal from the 3 with 21 seconds left at halftime, bought time, pumped on the run and then threw back to a sliding Gresham to put the Bengals into a halftime tie at 13.
But it was big-time drive at a point in the game the Bengals had done nothing after going down the field and scoring on their first drive. Tate, like all the specialists Sunday, struggled, but he set up this one with a season-high 22-yarder.
Dalton, who started the Bengals scoring on that first drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, found him on fourth-and-six for a 13-yard play to the Jaguars 21 on the first play after the two-minute warning. The Bengals then survived a false start on center Kyle Cook with quick run-and-throws over the middle to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and running back Brian Leonard to set up the throw to Gresham for his third touchdown of the season.
But defense was the reason the Bengals were in the game after they made two red-zone stands to keep the Jaguars lead at 13-7.
A Dalton interception set up one field goal and a 36-yard punt by the Bengals' Kevin Huber along with a missed third-down sack by right end Michael Johnson set up the other.
The Jaguars were aided by a 25-yard run from Jones-Drew in which safety Reggie Nelson appeared to have tackled him near the line of scrimmage when a knee was down, but he kept going and ripped off a 25-yard run to the Bengals 5.
The Jags then seemed to quick-snap to avoid a replay, but all they could get was a Gabbert scramble for two yards before he overthrew tight end Marcedes Lewis in the end zone and then had to settle for a field goal when Nelson kept the receiver in front of him.
Dalton hit his first three third-down passes on his first three throws, including a 37-yard touchdown pass to Green on third-and-17 in which Green froze a zone defense on a double move and wriggled past cornerback Rashean Mathis at the goal line. Dalton, who found wide receiver Jerome Simpson on the previous two third down snaps, had tons of time in the pocket and patiently waited for Green to get clear of the safety.
But as patient as he was on that throw, Dalton's next throw was ill-advised. Standing in his own end zone and now throwing into that wind, Dalton had Green beating Mathis down the left sideline. But he didn't see safety Dwight Lowery lingering in Cover 2 and he threw it right to him. Dalton had to lower his shoulder for what turned out to be a touchdown-saving tackle at the Bengals 2.
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga made Lewis bobble a first-down pass in the end zone and then he led a charge with end Frostee Rucker and linebacker Thomas Howard that dropped Jones-Drew for a seven-yard loss on second down and forced a 23-yard field goal to make it 10-7.
The dead-last-in-scoring Jaguars offense wasted no time deflating the No. 1 Bengals defense when they chewed them up on the game's first drive for 80 yards on 10 plays for a 7-0 lead in the game's first 5:25. Jones-Drew scored on a six-yard run where he spun out of blocked hole at the line of scrimmage and ran out of Hall's tackle on the left edge.
Jones-Drew took advantage of the Jags offensive line blowing the Bengals off the ball with six carries for 41yards. On the play before the touchdown run, Jones-Drew picked up 12 yards when right end Michael Johnson got taken down on the edge and the linebackers couldn't contain him.
Gabbert, who came into the game 11-of-21 passing on third down, hit his first two on third down throwing into an 18-mile-per-hour wind. The first one was a quick throw to Hill in front of third corner Morgan Trent and the second one came on third-and-seven when Gabbert lofted it just over the reach of cornerback Nate Clements for a 24-yard gain to wide receiver Mike Thomas.
The Bengals offense then sputtered. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth gave up a rare sack for one of the two of Dalton in the first half and the Bengals just couldn't get anything out of the running game. They finished the first half with just 35 yards on 12 carries. Running back Cedric Benson had just 21 yards on eight carries and the Bengals got Scott in the game on the second series but he only had 10 yards on three carries in the half.
PREGAME NOTES: Bobbie Williams, just off his four-game NFL suspension, got his 110th Bengals start at right guard Sunday at EverBank Field as the club went through pregame warmups in a shower that opened up about 75 minutes before the game. It looks like Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had it right and the showers were going to be off and on.
Rookie Clint Boling, the Opening Day starter at right guard, was inactive. Safety Taylor Mays was active for the first time as Bengal. The Bengals lined up with three cornerbacks with Kelly Jennings (hamstring) scratched. Also out were wide receiver Ryan Whalen, tight end Colin Cochart, linebacker Dontay Moch, tackle Anthony Collins, and safety Robert Sands.
The Jaguars iced their two excellent special-teamers, running back Montell Owens and wide receiver Kassim Osgood, as well as starting left end Aaron Kampman. Matt Roth, who got two huge sacks against the Bengals in their loss in Cleveland last season, started in his spot.
The Bengals emerged in their black jerseys and white pants. The Bengals won the toss, but deferred. Captains were center Kyle Cook, tight end Jernmaine Gresham, running back Cedric Peerman, left end Robert Geathers, and linebacker Thomas Howard.