Fast start helps Bengals spoil Redskins' home opener

David Elfin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Cincinnati Bengals ruined Washington's home opener Sunday, scoring on the first snap on a 73-yard touchdown on a wide-receiver option and then fending off a Redskins comeback to win 38-31.
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin rallied the Redskins from a 24-10 deficit, leading drives of 80 and 86 yards to start the second half, but Bengals second-year quarterback Andy Dalton completed all four of his passes for 73 yards on a five-play, 80-yard march that he finished with a 6-yard scoring toss to tight end Jermaine Gresham with 11:24 remaining.
Dalton's 59-yard touchdown pass to receiver Andrew Hawkins 4:16 later gave the Bengals breathing room they needed when Griffin took the ball over from the 2 with 3:35 to play. The Heisman Trophy winner moved the Redskins from their 2 to the Cincinnati 19 with seven seconds left before the game ended on consecutive penalties and a failed Hail Mary.
After getting pounded by Baltimore in its opener, Cincinnati (2-1) has scored 72 points in consecutive victories over Cleveland and Washington (1-2). The Bengals hadn't scored 30 points in back-to-back games since November 2006. The defeat was the second straight for the Redskins, who have lost seven straight at home.
"That's something we need to change," Redskins captain London Fletcher said. "We need to make it an unfriendly environment when other teams come in to play here."
Dalton improved to 10-7 as a starter while completing 19 of 26 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns after he was hit by Ryan Kerrigan on his first attempt and had the ball flutter into the hands of Rob Jackson, Kerrigan's fellow outside linebacker, for a Redskins touchdown that tied the score.
"Andy is unflappable," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who celebrated his 54th birthday by improving to 3-0 against the Redskins, for whom he was the defensive coordinator in 2002 before taking command in Cincinnati. "There's nothing that happens out there that he can't handle."
On that first play, Dalton lined up wide. Rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu took the snap and hit fellow receiver A.J. Green in stride behind Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety DeJon Gomes for the 7-0 lead.
"We saw the middle of the field was wide open," Green said. "We know that (Mohamed) could throw the ball. He put in the bread basket and I ran under it."
After Jackson scored in his first career start, Bengals receiver Armon Binns beat Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson and turned a down-and-out into a 48-yard touchdown grab with 3:28 left in the first quarter. Two plays after Mike Nugent's 47-yard field goal extended the margin to 17-7, Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap -- in his first game back from a knee injury suffered in the preseason opener -- hit Griffin, forced a fumble and recovered at the Washington 12. BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 1-yard run two plays later made it 24-7.
The Redskins got closer on Billy Cundiff's 36-yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the half and opened the second half with rookie back Alfred Morris' 7-yard scoring run that made it 24-17. After Washington's defense forced a three-and-out, Griffin ended the second straight long march with a 3-yard touchdown to receiver Santana Moss for the 24-24 tie with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
"It showed a lot of heart, but the bottom line is we got to come away with those victories," said Griffin, who was 21 of 34 for 221 yards and the touchdown while running 12 times for 85 yards.
Notes: Redskins left tackle Trent Williams injured his right knee on Washington's third snap and returned late in the second quarter, only to depart for good early in the third quarter when he said he had "trouble going right." Williams added that he didn't think it was a serious injury but was due for an MRI on Sunday night. Jordan Black replaced him. ... Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson had a career-high three sacks. ... Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon (foot) was inactive for a second straight week... The Bengals were minus top cornerback Leon Hall with a calf injury he sustained on Wednesday.

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