Andy Dalton has been no stranger to criticism in his NFL career, but the Bengals quarterback shouldn’t hear much if his second half goes anything like the first.
Dalton completed 15-of-24 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bengals to a 28-6 lead over the Jets at halftime in Cincinnati. The Jets defense that made Tom Brady look ordinary a week ago hasn’t come up with anything to stop Dalton this week. The pass rush hasn’t materialized and rookie cornerback Dee Milliner has been beaten time and again as the Bengals exploit a matchup that’s brought nothing but success.
Dalton wasn’t perfect. He was picked off by Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson on a screen pass inside Bengals territory, but the Jets couldn’t move the ball for more than a field goal. Dalton rebounded with his third touchdown pass on the next drive, again picking on the overmatched Milliner and then Milliner’s replacement Darrin Walls once the Jets mercifully put Milliner on the bench.
Marvin Jones caught that third touchdown pass, capping the best half of his NFL career. He has career highs with 116 receiving yards and three touchdowns with a lot of day left to play.He’s had plenty of help from A.J. Green and Mohamad Sanu in a rough day for the Jets secondary, but Jones’ emergence in the last few weeks has been vital to the Bengals offense.
But it may not all be on the Jets. This is the third week in a row with three touchdown passes for Dalton and the Bengals offense and it has the team well on their way to a fourth straight victory. That would mean a firm grasp on first place in the AFC North at the halfway point and a bright future for the 2013 Bengals.
About the only black mark for the Bengals was the loss of linebacker Rey Maualuga. Maualuga was carted off in the second quarter after meeting the hard-charging Chris Ivory in the hole and dropping immediately to the turf. It looked like it may have been a head injury at the moment of impact, but the team is calling it a knee injury.