Dalton, Bengals ground Eagles, 32-14

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, blistering 21 of his first 27 passes for 311 yards and a 139.4 passer rating, ended the longest winless drought of his six seasons when he staked the Bengals to a 29-0 lead by directing six scores on their first six drives during Sunday's 32-14 victory over the Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium.

With their first win in 42 days and two presidents, the 4-7-1 Bengals stopped the skid at four games with their most compete effort of the season.  As WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict piled up 15 more tackles and two interceptions (one off yet another Carlos Dunlap deflection), the Eagles didn't score until 2:30 left in the third quarter. It took a 13-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Carson Wentz on fourth-and-five  to wide-open tight end Zach Ertz.

With two completions over 40 yards, Dalton finished 23 of 31 for 332 yards with a 130 passer rating and for the first time in 117 games the Bengals scored on their first six possessions .

After leaping to a 19-0 half-time lead, the Bengals went for the jugular when they took the opening kick of the second half and got another touchdown to go up 26-0 when Dalton threw an eight-yard arrow to wide receiver Brandon LaFell on third-and-five when LaFell ran past safety Malcolm Jenkins for the touchdown. The drive featured another perfect touch over-the-shoulder throw by Dalton, this  time down the middle for 44 yards, LaFell's longest catch since the opener on his way to a season-high 95 yards.

Besides Dalton's lasers, the bolts of running back Rex Burkhead (38 yards on eight carries), and the defense's mastery of Wentz, the most interesting issue to emerge Sunday came in the Bengals right tackle rotation. Veteran Eric Winston got his first start of the season in place of Cedric Ogbuehi and rotated with Jake Fisher instead of Ogbuehi.

And when Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth left with a leg injury late in the third quarter, Fisher moved to left, Winston came back at right and Ogbuehi stayed on the bench. With 6:52 left in the game, Whitworth came back in. Then after Fisher caught his second NFL pass on Dalton's roll-out, he fumbled after taking a shot to the left knee and had to be helped off the field after the Bengals' second lost fumble of the second half. Winston replaced him, but the injury was categorized as only a bruise.

Bengals players wear specialized cleats dedicated to different causes and charities.

With six minutes left the Eagles got the ball from the Fisher fumble at their own 45 after cutting the lead to 29-14. But Burfict leaped out of nowhere at the line of scrimmage on a blitz as Wentz tried to hit a quick slant over the middle. He caught it in his belly and raced 47 yards to set up Mike Nugent's 38-yard field goal with 2:50 left to make it 32-14 for the most points the Bengals have scored this season.

It was the career-high third pick of the day for Wentz during a miserable afternoon he threw his most passes as a pro, completing only 36 of 60 for 308 yards and a passer rating of 58.2 as Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis went to 16-11 against rookie quarterbacks.   

Dalton finished off a near-perfect first half when he capped a 93-yard, two-minute drill on a diving 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Eifert with seven seconds left for a 19-0 lead.

The only mistake came after the play when Nugent missed his fifth extra point of the season from 33 yards. When he made field goals of 32 and 33 in the first half it made him 20-for-25 on both field goals and PATs.

Dalton, who missed only four of 20 passes in the first half for 217 yards, a TD, and a 128.5 passer rating, hit Eifert for the first time all day just before the touchdown for a leap-and-drag 12-yard catch out-of-bounds that stopped the clock with 20 seconds left. Then Eifert lined up in the slot, beat safety Rodney McLeod on a route to the corner, and Dalton threw another beauty in a day of beauties that Eifert plucked off the ground with his dive.

Burkhead was the driving force in the 12-play march. On the drive's first snap, the Bengals had just six rushing yards on 10 carries, but Burkhead started it off with a 16-yard dash cutting off Whitworth's down block.

Then on third-and-seven, Dalton ran out of a sack in the pocket, scrambled right, and found Burkhead leaking out with him for a 10-yard gain as Burkhead went out of bounds to stop the clock with 1:46 left at the Bengals 46.  

Bengals rookie wide receiver Cody Core, who on the snap before ran into Burkhead to cost them  two yards on a sweep, caught a 50-yard pearl from Dalton for his first NFL catch to help stake them to a 10-0 lead.

Running back Jeremy Hill followed a double-team block by center Russell Bodine and left guard Clint Boling for a two-yard touchdown run that finished off the drive and gave them the 10-point lead with 1:32 left in the first quarter. Dalton, who earlier in the drive converted a 23-yarder to LaFell, threw a beautiful over-the-shoulder ball to Core beating cornerback Nolan Carroll down the sideline and Carroll complained Core pushed off with his left  hand.

That made them even.

On the Bengals' first drive they had a third-and-nine from the Philly 14 and they thought Burkhead was interfered with over the middle at the 5 on a ball that was dropped by Eagles outside linebacker Nigel Bradham. That set up set up Nugent's 32-yard field goal less than five minutes into the game for the Bengals' 3-0 lead. Dalton hit passes of 12 and 15 yards to LaFell and James Wright, respectively, the last one coming off Dalton's boot-leg pass to Wright coming across the middle.

The Bengals made it 3-for-3 on their third possession to make it 13-0 when they got Nugent's 33-yard field goal with 6:23 left in the half, hitting it from the same distance he had missed three straight extra points in the previous two games. But he was perfect in the first half before another wide right PAT, hitting both field-goal tries, his lone PAT, and four touchbacks on his first four kicks.

The Bengals got another big play from a rookie receiver to jack the lead to 13 when Tyler Boyd caught a 21-yarder on third-and-11 and 15 yards got tacked on when Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham  was called for roughing Dalton on the throw. Graham had a clear path to Dalton when he cleanly beat Fisher off the snap, but it was Fisher's first pass set after coming into the game cold.

It turned out that Fisher was rotating with Winston and not Ogbuehi and it appears that Ogbuehi is benched after starting all 11 games until Winston unseated him Sunday.  After Winston worked the first two series of the half, Fisher worked the last two, and Winston started the second half.

 The Eagles won Sunday's coin flip and decided to take the ball and why not? The Bengals had given up a touchdown on the opening drive in each of the last four games.

But not this time. Try a three-and-out courtesy of linebacker Vincent Rey and safety Shawn Williams ganging up on running back Wendall Smallwood for a two-yard loss on a stretch play on first down and  Dunlap bull-rushing fill-in right tackle Allen Barbre for his 11th tipped pass of the season and the first of four on Sunday. It was another huge effort by the Bengals defense. While Dalton hit seven different receivers for at least two catches in the first half, the Bengals held Wentz to a 54.6 passer rating. Without their best receiver, Jordan Matthews, and the Bengals having fun with their Double A Gap Blitz,they stuffed the running game on 37 yards on 14 carries (53 on 19 for the game) while holding Wentz to eight of 18 passing for just 67 yards in the first half.

They sacked him just once but were constantly up in his grill. The dangerous Darren Sproles had just two yards on three carries and no catches in the first half as Burfict had his obligatory seven tackles.

PRE-GAME NOTES: The Bengals' rotation at right tackle took another turn Sunday when veteran Eric Winston drew the start in place of first-year starter Cedric Ogbuehi against the Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium.

After season-long struggles it is the first game that Ogbuehi, their prized 2015 first-round draft pick, didn't start. He began rotating with Winston during the Oct. 16 loss in New England and it culminated last week when each allowed a sack and strip of quarterback Andy Dalton in the last two series of the loss in Baltimore.

Ogbuehi didn't appear on last week's injury report and it was unclear if the rotation would continue or if Ogbuehi has been benched. Winston, in his 11th season, started two games last season in place of injured right tackle Andre Smith and made the 124th start of his career.

As expected, long snapper Clark Harris (groin) and rotation defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry (thigh) were inactive. That meant emergency long-snapper Tyler Ott, who escaped unscathed in his Bengals' debut last week, got another shot.

Backup safety Derron Smith (thigh) also missed his second straight game and backup tight end C.J. Uzomah (calf) missed his third straight. Rookie quarterback Jeff Driskell and rookie guard Christian Westerman, as they have been all year, were inactive. And, of course, A.J. Green was out with his strained hamstring.

Defensive tackle DeShawn Williams, who re-signed last week after getting cut for 48 hours, was active for the first time in his career.

 

Cincinnati Bengals host the Philadelphia Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium in week 13 of the regular season 12/4/2016

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