Bengals figure how to get offense moving without AJ Green
CINCINNATI (AP) — Rookie receiver Cody Core took off toward the backfield when the ball was snapped for what he thought was a fake reverse.
Instead, Andy Dalton had changed the play to a run, and Core collided with Rex Burkhead for a 2-yard loss.
On the next play, Core beat a defender deep for a 50-yard catch — the first of his NFL career — that set up Cincinnati’s first touchdown during a 32-14 win over Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Bengals’ first win in 42 days provided a glimpse of what the rest of the AFC North can expect in the season’s final month.
The Bengals (4-7-1) have finally figured out how to get their offense moving without receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovani Bernard, sidelined by injuries.
“It’s a big difference,” said Brandon LaFell, who caught an 8-yard touchdown pass. “You can’t just go to one guy. When the ball is shared, people are happy and everybody is out there having fun.”
The offense relied on Green and Bernard — its top pass catchers — through the first 10 games. Bernard is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Green has missed most of the past three games with a strained right hamstring and is sidelined indefinitely.
It’s taken the Bengals a few weeks to figure out what to do without them. Opponents clamped down on the run, forcing Dalton’s receivers to beat them. They did often enough on Sunday as the Bengals scored on each of their first six possessions.
Cincinnati’s best offensive showing of the season sent a message that the Browns (0-12), Steelers (7-5) and Ravens (7-5) will have to prepare for an offense that’s back on the move. The Bengals play in Cleveland on Sunday.
“We really pressed hard to get this monkey off our back and go play a big game,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “I think we’re ready to build off that.”
Dalton completed 23 of 31 for 332 yards, a pair of touchdowns and a season-high passer rating of 130. Dalton threw to nine receivers, the way it’s going to be with Green out.
Rookie Tyler Boyd had four catches for 66 yards. Core caught two for 58 yards, his first contribution to the offense all season, and showed he’s still got some growing pains ahead when he ran into Burkhead.
“We switched the play,” Core said. “I ran the first play instead of the second play.”
The Bengals didn’t expect to throw the ball so much, but the Eagles (5-7) set their defense to take away the run and force Dalton to go to his inexperienced receivers, who got a lot of man-to-man coverage. They came through.
“The guys were in the right spots and (Dalton) could count on them being there,” coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday.
NOTES: Lewis was noncommittal on what Green will be able to do this week as he continues recovering from the severe hamstring injury. Lewis is hopeful he’ll be able to play at some point in December. ... RT Cedric Ogbuehi didn’t get into the game on Sunday. Ogbuehi had started every game, though he began sharing the role with Eric Winston as he struggled. Winton replaced him on Sunday. Asked what’s in store for the 2015 first-round pick, Lewis said: “Just go out and practice hard and you’ll get opportunities and let’s make good on them.”