The Cincinnati Bengals moved to 3-2 with yet another come from behind win, this time on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Andy Dalton rallied the Bengals from a 20-16 fourth quarter deficit to win 30-20.
Once again, the Bengals won the toss and deferred, opting to put their defense on the field first. The Jags opened with a mix of Maurice Jones-Drew and short passes from Blaine Gabbert to get out to midfield. Gabbert hit Mike Thomas on a perfectly thrown ball for 24 yards down to the Bengal 22. The rest was all Jones-Drew, culminating with a six yard touchdown run. Jones-Drew accounted for 42 of the 80 yards on the opening drive. He would only get 43 the rest of the game though.
On Cincinnati's first drive, a recipe of Cedric Benson on first and second down and Andy Dalton to Jerome Simpson on third down took the ball into Jacksonville territory. After being sacked, Andy Dalton faced a third and 17 but found AJ Green in an open spot down the right sideline. Green took it into the end zone for a 37 yard touchdown which tied the game at seven.
On Jacksonville's next drive, it appeared the Bengals had Jacksonville stopped on a three and out, but poor tackling allowed a screen pass to gain 20 yards on third and 13. Good pressure from Reggie Nelson forced Gabbert to scramble short of a first down and the Jags were forced to punt and pinned the Bengals inside their 10.
On second down, Dalton tried to find AJ Green down the sideline, but the wind grabbed it and Dwight Lowery intercepted. Dalton upended Lowery at the two yard line, saving a touchdown on the return. That was a big tackle, as the Cincinnati defense held and forced Josh Scobee to kick a 19 yard field goal to put the Jags up 10-7.
After a Bengals three and out, punting against the wind gave the Jags the ball at midfield. Michael Johnson missed a sack, allowing Gabbert to escape the pocket and find Mike Thomas for a 20 yard gain. Maurice Jones-Drew ran 25 yards down to the Bengals five. Replays showed Jones-Drew was actually down on the play, but Jacksonville snapped the ball before the challenge flag could be thrown. Nonetheless, the Bengals defense held again inside the red zone, forcing another Jacksonville field goal putting them up 13-7.
After a Kevin Huber punt against the wind boomed the ball back into Jacksonville territory, the Bengals defense came up with a three and out. Brandon Tate, who had been struggling thus far with returns, took the ball out to midfield. After the two minute warning, Andy Dalton converted a fourth and seven, hitting AJ Green on a slant. A screen to Andrew Hawkins and a dump off to Brian Leonard took the ball inside ten. On third and goal, Andy Dalton scrambled outside the pocket and bought enough time for Jermaine Gresham to come open. Mike Nugent missed the ensuing extra point, leaving the game tied at 13 with 14 seconds left in the half.
So despite losing the field position and turnover battles and allowing Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 65 yards, the Bengals ended the first half tied and would receive the ball to start the second half.
Jacksonville opted to take the wind in the third quarter, so after a holding penalty put the Bengals behind the chains, a punt gave the Jags the ball at their own 39. It appeared the defense made some adjustments at the half as they shut down two Jones-Drew carries and forced Blaine Gabbert into a hasty incompletion on third down. Brandon Tate didn't field Matt Turk's punt though, and it rolled out of bounds at the Bengals two yard line. The Bengals were able to get the ball out past the twenty, however, and Kevin Huber flipped the field against the wind once again.
Frostee Rucker started the drive with a sack of Gabbert and the Bengals again would not allow the Jags to get a first down with the wind. Matt Turk shanked the punt and the Bengals took over with decent field position at their own 29. They couldn't do anything with it though, going three and out. Huber absolutely boomed his next kick, 71 yards into the wind, and nearly downed at the one.
The Jags converted two third downs, mainly due to Carlos Dunlap missed tackles to push the ball over midfield. But the third quarter expired in the process, and with it Jacksonville's wind advantage. Blaine Gabbert fluttered two incompletions and Matt Turk's punt was stood up by the wind and the Bengals had the ball with the wind at their backs at their own 24.
They couldn't get anything going, but did flip the field when Kevin Huber pinned the Jags back and the defense held. Brandon Tate took the next punt down to the Jags 37 yard line. After Bernard Scott gained seven yards on first down though, the drive stalled. Mike Nugent drilled a 47 yard field goal and Cincinnati led for the first time, 16-13.
The lead was short-lived, however. Leon Hall and Chris Crocker got mixed up on coverage, allowing Jason Hill to wander alone in the secondary. Blaine Gabbert just had to get it there and Hill waltzed into the end zone for a 74 yards TD catch, giving the Jags a 20-16 lead. The Bengals couldn't mount anything on the next drive, but Kevin Huber nailed a 59 yard punt inside the Jags' two yard line. The defense held, and Matt Turk's 22 yard punt gave the Bengals the ball at the Jacksonville 23 after a five yard penalty against the Jags.
Facing a fourth down and six, Andy Dalton found Jermaine Gresham the Jacksonville 10 to keep the drive alive. Andre Caldwell took a slant pass down to the three. On third down, Bernard Scott took an inside counter play into the end zone. This time Nugent was dead center and the Bengals led 23-20 with 1:56 left to play.
The Jags took the kick out beyond their 30. Facing a third and one, Jack Del Rio eschewed a time out. Jacksonville center Brad Meester snapped the ball to an unaware Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert couldn't chase down the errant snap and the Bengals recovered on the Jacksonville 20.
Jacksonville called their final two time outs and the Bengals were able to run the clock down to 12 seconds. On fourth down, Cedric Benson was tackled short of the first down mark, allowing the Jags to take over with seven seconds left. Jacksonville tried the "Stanford/Cal" play. Gino Atkins picked up a Blaine Gabbert fumble/lateral and rumbled into the end zone for the final 30-20 margin.
Once again, it wasn't pretty, but it goes down as a win. Andy Dalton threw for only 179 yards and Cedric Benson only managed 53 on the ground, running for 2.2 yards per carry. To their credit, the Bengals stuck to their game plan, keeping Andy Dalton in manageable situations and allowing the defense to carry the burden. The Bengals aren't doing much to help the producers at ESPN searching for highlights, but they are winning football games, which is what they came to do.
Cincinnati will come back home to face the still winless and Peyton-Manningless Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown stadium. I'm sure Marvin Lewis would be happy with another ugly win.
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