This is what perfection (at home) looks like.
In addition to clearing Paul Brown Stadium of 5 inches of snow that fell Friday, the Cincinnati Bengals also managed to clean up every problem that has plagued the offense at any point during the season.
They can’t run the ball? Try 35 carries for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
They can’t convert third downs? While 6 of 12 isn’t perfect, 50 percent for the year would lead the league.
They give up too many sacks? They can’t allow less than zero.
Andy Dalton throws too many interceptions? He can’t throw less than zero.
With all of those stats aligned Sunday afternoon at chilly PBS, the Cincinnati offense produced its most complete game of the season in beating the Indianapolis Colts 42-28.
“That’s when you know you’ve had a good day, when you’re pleased with a lot of different things,” Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said after the Bengals won their third game in a row to improve to 9-4 and stay two games ahead of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North Division with three left to play.
“We know what we’re capable of doing,” said Dalton, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for an 8-yard score.
“We have to keep this going,” Dalton added. “We have a lot of momentum.”
Dalton drove the Bengals 83 yards in 10 plays on their opening possession, capping the march with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis added a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs – the first of which came in controversial fashion on a fourth-and-1 play after a curious replay reversal at the end of the first half – to build a 21-0 lead early in the third quarter.
“I’m very excited about the offense stepping up to the table,” said Green-Ellis, who rushed 17 times for 48 yards while rookie Giovani Bernard gashed the Colts (8-5) for 99 yards on 12 carries and also caught four passes for 49 yards.
“The biggest thing that I try to do is get all-purpose yards,” Bernard said. “It’s not the rushing, it’s not the receiving, it’s just a combination of the two.”
After falling in the three-touchdown hole, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck got the Colts offense going with back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter to trim the Cincinnati lead to 21-14. But Dalton and the Bengals offense went right back down the field to get a 1-yard TD pass to Jermaine Gresham, and Indianapolis never got within single digits the rest of the way.
“That was big,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “Their run list gets a little shorter when they’re down by two scores. Having the two-score cushion through the day was big.”
Dalton also threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green as part of the offense’s 430-yard performance that was free of both turnovers and sacks for only the second time this year (Week 2 vs. Pittsburgh).
“They made plays,” Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said. “We had chances to make plays and get off the field when we were in good position. They made them, and we didn’t.”
Luck made plenty of plays, throwing for 326 yards and four touchdowns, but it was a one-dimensional attack as Colts running backs Donald Brown and Trent Richardson combined for just 31 yards on 10 carries.
The Bengals improved to 6-0 at home and moved ahead of Indianapolis for the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Cincinnati can clinch the AFC North with a win at Pittsburgh on Sunday night and a Baltimore loss at Detroit on Monday.
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