Backup Josh Johnson got the ball to some weapons, too.
It takes a lot to impress a frosty four-time Pro Bowler like Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. But Friday night's first series of the season when his offense took just six plays to get six points caught his attention.
"That's how this offense is," said Green after the 23-10 victory over the Giants at Paul Brown Stadium. "We've got so many guys that can make plays when their number is called."
This is what you've been waiting for since that demolition derby in Indianapolis back in January in the Wild Card Game. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wrote the script and on Friday he got a Broadway performance.
Cincinnati Bengals host New York Giants at Paul Brown Stadium in their preseason opener 08/14/2015
Green and tight end Tyler Eifert had their estimable numbers called in that 52-yard virtual reality drive running back Jeremy Hill bulled for two first downs and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu capped off with a three-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Andy Dalton.
"Usually going into that game, you kind of feel how that first series goes," Dalton said. "If it's not exactly the finish that you wanted, you might go another one. So it was one of those things going into it for that first group where we were like, 'Let's go and put a good series together and watch these other guys play.' "
So then Dalton and his 3-for-3 night sat and watched two wide receivers he didn't have last year give him even more options, the Friday night word. Working with backup quarterback Josh Johnson, veteran Marvin Jones caught his first ball in 20 months on a 17-yarder that had some YAC and speedy rookie Mario Alford slithered out of the slot for 13 yards.
When Johnson handed off to the 4.3 speedy Alford on a reverse in the fourth quarter, he put his arms in the air signaling TD even though it was at the Bengals 26. Alford 'only,' got 23, but that's the kind of heady night it was.
"The safety and the linebacker, they saw it and just reversed field and came over," Alford said.
And before running back Rex Burkhead (neck) left in the second quarter, he had lined up in the slot a few times with the first group.
"We've got options, and that's the biggest thing," Dalton said. "You can go different spots with it. We feel like we've got the guys where we can spread it around, so that's what we were able to do today."
Dalton started it off with Burkhead in the slot, but finding Eifert across the middle for 12 yards while working on linebacker Jon Beason. Green was easily available on the right perimeter when Dalton's play-action bootleg opened up a 16-yard sideline play. Then with the Bengals on the Giants 3, Sanu popped wide open on the goal line from a position that lined up near Dalton in a bunch.
"It's big, because you've got guys that can line up anywhere, play many different positions (that) are interchangeable within an offense," Sanu said. "And that helps you tremendously because you can't game-plan for guys that can line up anywhere."
Eifert conjured up memories of last season's regular-season opener in Baltimore, when he had three catches in the first 10 minutes before suffering a season-ending dislocated elbow. When Dalton went to the bench Friday, Eifert caught an 18-yarder on quarterback Josh Johnson's first series. The only remnant of the injury is Eifert's elbow brace.
"When I'm out there I'm not thinking about my elbow brace or my repaired shoulder or anything like that," Eifert said. "I'm just out there trying to play as fast as I can. It's actually a lot easier when you're on the field playing. You've got a lot less to think about."
Eifert, who has played under the Golden Dome, after all, is another guy that doesn't get ruffled. But you can sense his excitement
"I haven't been on the field. We've had an offseason. We're excited about who we have on the field," he said.
Like their 10-TD man from '13. After missing all last season with a broken foot and ankle surgery, Jones knew they wanted to get him the ball because Lewis kept him out there.
"It was great for Marvin Jones to play through the second quarter like he did and feel good about it," Lewis said. "We kept trying to get the ball in his hands and finally got it in his hands and then got him out, and that was good. He did a nice job catching the ball, avoiding the first tackle and turning up the field and running. It had to feel good for him."
Jones stopped on a dime working on a sideline route on third-and-11 against cornerback Chandler Fenner, caught the bullet from Johnson, and made a move to get about five more yards after the catch.
"That's what I'm always thinking about, so if there's more yards to get, I'm going to do everything to get them," Jones said. "It's been so long. I was just wanting to get the ball, do something, get tackled and get back into the feel of things. We finally got it."
Mark it down. It's the first game that Eifert and Jones have played with Hill. Even the running backs are getting excited about this pass game.
"I think the biggest word is 'x-factor.' This league is going to be taken by storm by Tyler Eifert and especially by Marvin," Hill said. "Tyler is definitely capable of doing big things, and I think those two will be x-factors for us and make a big splash."
It has been more than 500 days since Jones last caught a pass in an NFL game. He shrugged that off with "Something like that." But he was excited, too, underneath.
"We're out there looking at each other, looking at everybody who's making plays. There's just so many options," Jones said. "It's great to have. It's great to be part of an offense where everyone has different attributes they bring to the game. Nothing but good can come out of that, and we're all excited to be a part of this."
Dalton could only laugh and think back to his first pre-season game in 2011 in Detroit, when he threw a pick while getting hit full speed on his first pass.
"A lot better than the first drive of my rookie year," he said with a laugh. "But I think it was about six plays, and you go down and score. That's how you want to start the season off."