Bengals go wildcat, open up offense
Rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu lined up in the shotgun, took the snap and threw a 73-yard touchdown pass on the Bengals' first play from scrimmage.
It was the start of an uncharacteristically wide-open day for the buttoned-down team.
The Bengals also had running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis take a direct snap in a wildcat formation and run for a touchdown. They even tried a fake field goal, one of the few things that didn't work during a 38-31 win in Washington on Sunday.
It was the best indication yet of how much more faith offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has in his young-and-growing offense.
''We had a lot of stuff in the playbook last year,'' receiver Andrew Hawkins said on Monday. ''We got to some of it. I think it's a feel thing. The longer we've been in the offense, he trusts us with a little more. It keeps building that way.''
For the first time in his two seasons at Cincinnati, Gruden let his wild side show.
The Bengals (2-1) let one of their receivers fling it for the first time. Sanu, a rookie who ran in the wildcat at Rutgers, took the first snap and saw that Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green had single coverage with a safety. Green ran right past him, and Sanu got the ball to him for an easy score.
Green-Ellis ran 1 yard for a touchdown off a snap in the wildcat formation, with quarterback Andy Dalton flanking out to the side like a receiver. Later, Dalton threw a pass that Hawkins turned into a 59-yard touchdown.
Part of it was an attempt to take advantage of Washington's attacking style of defense, which leaves receivers with opportunities if the quarterback can get them the ball.
Part of it is a change in philosophy by the Bengals this season. In the past two games - wins over Cleveland and Washington - Cincinnati has scored on pass plays of 44, 50, 73, 48 and 59 yards.
A team that was much more conservative last season with a rookie quarterback and a new offensive system is starting to take off the training wheels.
''As we evaluated where we were last season, we felt we needed to continue to do everything in our power to add and promote more of that,'' coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday. ''Because it's difficult to drive the ball 80 yards plus, particularly in the division we play. It's difficult throughout the league.''
The plays sure seemed to surprise the Redskins (1-2).
''The creativity that we've got here and the talent that we have at wide receiver, the running back, the different things we are doing, it's big,'' Dalton said. ''You try to find a way to get an advantage in the game.''
It wasn't just the new stuff that had the Redskins struggling to keep up. Dalton completed 19 of 27 passes for 328 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 132.9, his best yet. Green had nine catches for a career-best 183 yards. The Bengals piled up 478 yards.
Players embraced Gruden's willingness to open things up for one week. Jacksonville (1-2) will probably be prepared for it next Sunday.
''When you have a guy like Jay that you know is such an offensive guru, you don't have to worry about what's going to work,'' Hawkins said. ''Just stick to the game plan. It's like Novocain. It's going to work, just give it time.''
Notes: Lewis said CB Leon Hall, who missed the game with an injured calf, will be day to day this week. ... Lewis didn't want to take issue with a missed call by the replacement officials, who failed to take 10 seconds off the clock after Washington's Leonard Hankerson got hurt on the Redskins' final drive with 1:02 left. The injury stopped the clock and the Redskins had no timeouts left, so they should have lost 10 seconds. The drive came up empty. ''We overcame it, and that's all we're worried about,'' Lewis said. ''Not a big deal.''
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