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Offense rolls back on to river

A.J. Green

[internal-link-placeholder-0]JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After helping give quarterback Andy Dalton enough time to play pitch and catch with the monstrous A.J. Green during Sunday's 27-10 victory, left tackle Andrew Whitworth could only wonder what's next now that his suddenly high-octane offense is coming home for four of the next five games.

"I was hoping we'd score 30 points in three straight games," said Whitworth, the only offensive player left from the last time the Bengals did that in his rookie November of 2006. "This offense is so exciting because it can do so many different things and today we did it against a defense that showed a look they hadn't shown this year."

Whitworth, Dalton and the gang were expecting a two-deep zone with the safeties dropping back to take away the Bengals big pass plays and daring them to run. Instead, they got a heavier dose of a safety in the box than they expected.

"We got a lot more single (safety) high stuff than we thought. I guess they wanted to stop the run," Dalton said. "We had some one-on-ones and you saw what A.J. was able to do."

What Green did was post the first back-to-back 100-yard game of his career against, primarily, the best Jags cover cornerback, Rashean Mathis in staying in second place in the NFL yardage race after his six-catch, 117-yard clinic.

Dalton turned the game on the first play after the two-minute warning of the first half when he dropped a perfect 42-yarder over Green's front shoulder down the right side on the Jags 1 that set up the TD that made it a two-score game.

Then late in the third quarter with the Bengals bleeding from the bite of losing running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis's fumble in the end zone after an 80-yard drive, Dalton went for Green's back shoulder for a 30-yard completion.

That set up his 18-yard touchdown pass to seal it at 24-10 two minutes into the fourth quarter on another over-the-shoulder beauty. But only before Green made a show-that-again-body-outstretched-one-handed-diving-pluck over the middle.

"It just shows what he's capable of doing," Dalton said. "You see him do that and you don't think about it the next time he does it."

Dalton and Green have now hooked up for eight career touchdowns and they look well on their way to challenging the club record of the 51 from Ken Anderson-Isaac Curtis. They've got more chemistry than a 24-hour pharmacy.

"The thing about Andy is he doesn't care where the defenders are, he's going to put that ball where I can go make a play," said Green, who had that back-shoulder throw on the sideline in mind.

"He's one of the best at that. The guy can be great, I'm telling you."

And Green is getting better, too. He said he's been working on his release off the line of scrimmage and not trying to be so much quick, but patient. Sunday it showed. He froze Mathis on the touchdown with a fade route and buckled him when he jabbed his head inside and then pulled back outside that provided just enough separation.

"And Andy threw a great ball," Green said.

Dalton and Green had time to do all this because the offensive line did what it was supposed to do and blanked a woeful Jags pass rush that still doesn't have a sack since Opening Day. Center Jeff Faine gutted it out after being limited during the week with a hamstring issue, Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith sealed the edges, and the emerging Clint Boling was named a game captain for just his fourth NFL start at left guard.

"I wanted to be out there with my guys," said Faine, who didn't know any of these guys 30 days ago when he became an emergency sign in the wake of Kyle Cook's injury.

But he's one of the guys now and the offense's oldest player is excited about what he sees.

"I saw a lot of things when I signed here. The skill positions … those guys are scary out there," Faine said. "And we've got a good group up front trying to get better. I'm liking it, I'm loving it. We can be very explosive and if we need to, we can methodically take it down the field as well. You're going to have to be able to do both of those things."

But for the third straight game, the Bengals didn't have to be methodical. A 48-yard run by Cedric Peerman on a fake punt set up the first TD. The 42-yard floater to Green set up the second one. And for the third straight game, slot receiver Andrew Hawkins caught a ball of at least 31 yards and his 31-yarder just may have bailed out the Bengals, just like his 50-yard TD catch-and-run on third-and-10 against Cleveland two weeks ago bailed them out.

The Bengals, still a little shaky with a 17-10 lead late in the third quarter after The Law Firm's fumble, faced a third-and-seven from their own 36. The Jags brought a blitz and Dalton thought the coverage was blown because the pressure and coverage didn't match. He knows Hawkins eats linebackers in space at the buffet line and the quick throw got the first down but Hawkins ran for the rest.

"They brought a heavy blitz," said Hawkins, who scorched the backer across the middle. "And Andy saw it and got it out fast. But that's what you expect from him. That's good team football."

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