With everyone healthy, Bengals offense is balanced in opener


Joe Kay

AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI — The first throw went to tight end Tyler Eifert, who was out for all but eight plays last season.

It wasn’t long before one went to Marvin Jones, who sat out all last season with injuries.

The Bengals’ offense is intact and looking good.

Cincinnati spread it out with multiple formations and lots of options during an opening 33-13 win in Oakland on Sunday that felt more like a long-delayed unveiling. The Bengals had expected to look more like this last year, but never had everyone on the field.

“I’m happy that we did that,” said Andy Dalton, who was 25 of 34 for 269 yards with two touchdowns to Eifert. “It kind of sets the tone for the season.”

The first time out, the Bengals started emptying their playbook.

They went with four receivers and five receivers, loaded up with extra blockers for running plays, even had tackle Andrew Whitworth spread out in a slot position to block after a quick pass to a nearby receiver on one play.

“We have some flexibility with our players and their ability to line up at different spots and do different things,” coach Marvin Lewis said.

They also showed they can run as well as throw it, finding a better balance than in the past.

“The first half and the beginning of the second half, I think we did a lot of great things,” said Jeremy Hill, who ran for 63 yards and two touchdowns. “We definitely showed what we’re capable of doing with all the weapons we have as an offense.

“I think the sky is the limit for us, especially after just seeing some of the things we could do.”

Their receiving group was hit hard by injuries last season, when they went 10-5-1, got a wild card and lost their opening playoff game for the fourth season in a row. A.J. Green missed significant time with an injured foot and a concussion that kept him out of the playoff loss at Indianapolis.

In addition, Jones never got on the field because of foot and ankle injuries. Eifert suffered a severe elbow injury early in the season opener and never returned.

Eifert’s injury was especially costly. The tight end led the way on Sunday in Oakland with a team-high nine catches for 104 yards. On both of his touchdown catches, Dalton threw his way because he was matched on a smaller defender.

“Just put it up there and let me go make a play on it,” Eifert said.

Dalton and Eifert were in sync during training camp that has carried over to the season. With teams concentrating on Green, Eifert is getting more chances at the outset.

“I missed all of last year and we’re still developing that relationship and the trust factor,” Eifert said. “So hopefully that keeps developing and the offense keeps putting up points.”

Dalton was eager to showcase the Bengals’ many options. He wasn’t sacked and had plenty of time to find an open receiver.

“It’s great having all our guys back,” Dalton said. “Our guys played well. We spread it around, got both (running) backs going and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Notes: Defensive end Michael Johnson was on the field for 38 of the defense’s 66 plays after missing most of training camp with a sprained knee. “I thought it was good to get him some snaps and get him going,” Lewis said. “So he’ll be a step ahead next week, and that’s good.” … Lewis again addressed several on-field issues with the team on Monday. Safety George Iloka was flagged for taunting after a tackle, and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones got a personal foul penalty for an altercation.

Joe Kay

AP Sports Writer

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