Running back Giovani Bernard did it all in Baltimore last Sunday.
Whatever you want to know about Hue Jackson as a play caller, just look at his first game as Bengals offensive coordinator in the 23-16 win in Baltimore.
_Spreading the field as much as stretching it.
(Before A.J. Green's 77-yard bomb to win it, there was running back Giovani Bernard's 32-yard scoot down the right sideline on a swing pass.)
"We try to create space for our players to make plays in," Jackson reflected Monday. "We need to still get more chunk plays. Obviously we got the biggest chunk at the end of the game which was sensational. When you are spreading people out there's potential for big plays to happen with the kind of athletes that we have here."
_Making things easy and diverse on his quarterback with more simple plays out of a lot more formations.
(Of Andy Dalton's 38 passes Sunday, only five were for 20 yards or longer. He only completed two, but the quick throws set up the deep stuff and led to a Pro Bowl 98.9 passer rating and no-turnover and no-sack performance in Baltimore's garden of defense. Jackson never had Dalton sit back there with too many five- or seven-step drops.)
_There is a method to the madness.
(As much as Sunday's game plan had been crafted with last year's five-sack, three-pick game in Baltimore in mind, it was also done to give the next defensive coordinator plenty to think about in Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener at 1 p.m.
That just happens to be the Falcons' Mike Nolan and he has to think about Dalton running four zone reads along with one option play and one quarterback draw last Sunday. Jackson basically said if Dalton was going to have the ball in his hands against the Ravens, he wanted him going forward instead of sitting and waiting in the pocket. He may have had just three yards on six carries and got stoned on the draw at the 4 as his rookie center tried to adjust to a changed play, but Nolan now has to spend some time on Dalton out of the pocket this week.
Nolan also has to think about what began to dawn on Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees on last Sunday's first drive. Jackson never showed any of those plays publicly.)
"I think the offensive line met the challenge. I think the backs met the challenge with the line. I think the tight ends. I think everybody did," Jackson said. "They said, 'Hey, we need to make this guy is upright and standing. And if he isn't it's because he's running around himself.'"
_Jackson is going to run the ball even if they can't run the ball. The Bengals ran it 26 times, or 41 percent of the time, even though they averaged just three yards per carry. That's pretty standard against the stingy Ravens. But the idea is the attempts didn't allow pass rushers to fire off the ball.
("That's the key," Jackson said Monday. "I think sometimes it's not about the yards it's about the attempts and when you are playing against a good football team, yeah, I want the chunk yards. We all do. At the end of the day, it's about the attempts and the willingness to continue to do so. You might not have rushed for a lot of yards but the attempts gave you a chance to throw the ball more efficiently. "
What's the difference? After all, the Bengals ran it 31 times in the loss to Baltimore last year.
"In the past, they've been able to bring rushers on the field and really tee off on us there on third down," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "But putting them in situations where those guys have to be on the field all the time limits some of that pass rushes."
But whatever Jackson did last Sunday, and there was plenty with tackles splitting out to the numbers and zone reads and wide receivers lining up as backs and backs lining up as receivers, don't expect the same thing this Sunday.
"We were a little exotic in some things that we did because I thought we had to be. I didn't want to go just downhill at these guys because I didn't think that was the best way to defeat them," Jackson said. "As a staff we kept watching — not that we don't think our players can do it — we thought what's going to give us a chance to keep them off balance, keep them guessing which direction we are coming from and going to. We thought yesterday's game gave us that chance. If we could do it a little bit more consistently, maybe convert in the scoring zone when we get those opportunities maybe it's a whole entirely different game but we won the game, that's the most important thing now we get ready for Atlanta. "
And that means some differences. Especially without tight end Tyler Eifert, lost for at least a month with a dislocated elbow during a first quarter he emerged as a huge factor against the Ravens' reduced secondary with three catches for 37 yards. Now, keep an eye on running back Giovani Bernard.
"The unfortunate thing is they happen in games," Jackson said of what the injury did to his game plan. "If it happens when you're practicing during the week you can adjust. But when you put a plan together that says this guy has chance to have a big game and you're in the middle of it, you have to put those things away. We'll go back and draw up what we need to draw up. There are some constants on our team. I think No. 18 shows up. I think No. 14 showed that. I think Gio (showed up) even though the production didn't say a ton. I mean the guy caught six balls and carried 14 times."
If Jackson has to make Bernard play Eifert's role in the sense of a matchup nightmare that means rookie running back Jeremy Hill is going to have to run the ball more Sunday. Jackson's decision to give Hill just four carries is another example of how Jackson plans to adjust week-to-week.
"In that first game AFC North on the road in Baltimore, not that I don't have confidence in Jeremy yet, I just know what I'm getting from Gio every time I hand it to him," Jackson said. "I didn't want to put the other young man in a tough situation where something could have happened and all of a sudden you look back and say, 'What did you do that for?'
"He understands. I talked to him after that game and said, 'Hey, you will play more as we go forward.' First game, first situation, I think Gio will tell you in the Chicago game he didn't play very much neither last year. The way it is a comfort ability with the people you know. Not that Jeremy hasn't earned the right but I think as we move forward he will get those opportunities."
Hill had 19 yards on four carries in 10 snaps. Last year in the opener in Chicago Bernard had four carries for 22 yards on 21 plays. It will be recalled it was the next week Bernard had his coming out when he caught a touchdown pass against the Steelers.
But one rookie on Sunday not only played every snap, he made every snap and Jackson is generally pleased with center Russell Bodine.
"For a first game in Baltimore against that guy…that guy is like Man Mountain Dean he had to block," Jackson said of Haloti Ngata. "That guy is strong and he held his own. It wasn't like he was out there and shouldn't have been out there. He looked like he belonged. That's an experience for him to tuck in his pocket and get ready for the next one."
Bodine did have a holding call and did have a problem when the play on the 4 got switched to a quarterback draw, but Jackson said, "We can do more to help him."
It sounds like Jackson is keeping plenty in his pocket, too. During last Sunday's pre-game warmups when Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham probed for some nuggets, Jackson told him, "Don't go to the bathroom."
The PBS restrooms may be empty when the Bengals have the ball Sunday.
"I looked at it after I got the job and said, 'Hey, this is how I think we have to win this first game,'" Jackson said. "I still think we are a group up front who prides themselves on running the ball, we can run the ball and we will run the ball, I've said that from Day One. As I've told you guys before, I didn't say when we would run it. "