Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's career-best passing day with his all-time rating of 128.2 translated into a 34-27 victory Sunday over the Browns before a sellout crowd of 63,036 in the Paul Brown Stadium opener and also marked the most points he's ever generated at home.
On a day the Bengals unveiled "The Dalton Gang" theme on the scoreboard, Dalton showed off his weapons by dishing at least 56 yards to four different receivers. Wide receiver Brandon Tate led the way with 71 yards on three catches, Armon Binns had 66 on five, A.J. Green had 58 on five, and 50 of Andrew Hawkins's 56 came on a Madden 2525 move for a touchdown.
It was the first time since the Christmas night loss to the Vikings that knocked the Bengals out of the 1989 playoffs that they had four players with that many receiving yards, according to Elias. Wide receiver Eddie Brown had 109, tight end Rodney Holman 84, running back James Brooks 66, and wide receiver Tim McGee with 56.
The win also eased hearts and minds now that the Bengals are 1-1 following Monday night's 44-13 stunner in Baltimore.
"It was a tense week," admitted head coach Marvin Lewis. "I think everybody was. When you lose a game and you go in and expect to win. It's the opening game and you've been pointing to this game. It's Monday Night Football."
"It was big. It's never good to start 0-2," said middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. "It's not good for the players, coaches, or the people upstairs."
Wide receiver A.J. Green, off his 10-yard touchdown catch, said he felt like "I've got a load off my shoulders. We got the win."
"It wasn't pretty," said left end Robert Geathers, dean of the Bengals after playing in his 120th Bengals game and ninth home opener. "But we won. There are things we have to do better on defense. From up front to the back. We need more discipline. But we found a way to win and that's what good teams do."
Dalton did his share, cutting the tension with his 128.2 knife.
"I think it got stressed a little bit. After a loss you want to get back on the field and get back playing quickly," Dalton said. "Fortunately for us that happened. We had a short week. You want to get that first win. It was a tense week, but you know, we were able to get it done. It's what we had to do; come out and get a win today. And we did it."
SCRAMBLED LEGS: On Saturday night Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden showed his offense clips of big scramble plays pulled off by teams that won games the week before on Opening Day.
Ask and you shall receive.
The Bengals got what proved to be the winning points when Dalton scrambled on third-and-10 to his right sideline and then threw it across his body to Hawkins feeling his way into a zone in the middle of the field. Hawkins did the rest with a bolt-of-lightning-run-to-the-sideline-cut-back-to-the-middle 50-yard touchdown run that had Gruden shaking his head.
"I didn't go toward (Dalton). I was looking for an open spot and Andy locked eyes with me," Hawkins said.
Dalton said he thought Hawkins would miss a few tackles before ended up out of bounds, but he also said he knows how quick and dangerous he is. Running back Brian Leonard helped with the block that let him make the final, killing cut.
"We talked about making plays when I'm on the move, and guys moving around," Dalton said. "Hawk did a great job just finishing his route and them coming out and breaking away from his defender. That's what we've got to do. When we were on the run with the scramble drill, we worked it to perfection today."
SICK CALL: On Tuesday, Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons told cornerback Adam Jones he would be returning punts on Sunday even as Simmons was going into the hospital to fight a blood infection.
Simmons, still fighting it, got back to work Thursday, but on Saturday night Jones told him he was under the weather and needed some fluids. By the time 1:47 had elapsed in the game Sunday they were both feeling on top of the world because Jones had taken the first punt of the day 81 yards for a touchdown even after he needed an IV.
Even though after the game Jone figured he still only felt 70 percent.
"I wish you had a crystal ball so you could find out when he should make his first touch of the season," Simmons said.
Last year Jones's first and only touch went for 63 yards in Seattle and he would have scored if he didn't have to pull up with a hamstring pull. It was muscle pulls that sidelined Jones for virtually all of this training camp and kept him out the punt return business until Sunday at 1:05 p.m., his first chance since that Oct. 30 game in Seattle.
"I'm OK as long as I catch balls and I've kept doing it," Jones said. "Darrin is great because he's always giving me tips. He should get all the props. That guy coudn't even walk yesterday"
Ironically, wide receiver Brandon Tate returned a punt for a touchdown that same day in Seattle for the Bengals in the other game the Bengals scored a high of 34 points in the Dalton era. And it was Jones's fifth career NFL punt return for a touchdown and first since he had three in 2006.
"I don't think about the past," he said.
REY AND TRENT: Maualuga patiently explained to reporters after the game that he wasn't dismissing Browns running back Trent Richardson's talents when he said last week that he didn't see anything "spectacular" in Richardson's NFL debut last Sunday.
Richardson didn't like it and left his calling card at PBS with 109 yards on 19 carries, as well as a 32-yard touchdown run and a spectacular 23-yard run off a dump pass through four tacklers, one of which was Maualuga.
But Maualuga said he and Richardson met after the game and "quashed it."
"We're fine," he said.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» The devstating injuries on defense keep piling up. Three days after losing WILL backer Thomas Howard to an ACL, the Bengals fear they have lost backup right end Jamaal Anderson with a season-ending knee injury when he was carted off the field with 1:50 left. The Bengals hope to get left end Carlos Dunlap (knee) back for next Sunday's game in Washington after he missed the first two games. But Anderson was versatile enough to play both sides and along with rookie Devon Still keep starters Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson fresh. In the opener Anderson played 37 percent of the snaps from scrimmage (Still played 40) and 57 percent on special teams.
It may be time to go get Jon Fanene if he's healthy. The former Bengal had been cut by the Patriots in training camp after struggling with his knee. But if he's not, they may have to wait only for defensive end/SAM backer Dontay Moch to come off a league suspension. If Dunlap, as most believe, is back next week, they only have to wait another week before Moch is eligible to play in the Oct. 7 PBS game against Miami.
» Dalton got sacked six times Sunday. The most he was sacked last year was three times. Now he's already been sacked 10 times after getting hit four times Monday night in Baltimore.