Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 10/9/11
JACKSONVILLE -- It wasn't hard to figure out the main storyline heading into Sunday's Bengals-Jaguars matchup. Entering the game, the Bengals boasted the NFL's top ranked defense, allowing an average of only 275 yards per game. The Jaguars, owners of the one of the league's most inept offenses, were hoping to find some footing after a disappointing 1-3 start. Throw in a looping wind and two rookie quarterbacks seemingly at two distinct levels of NFL development and perhaps an eventual 30-20 Bengals' win was predictable. Yet if there is another defining characteristic of the 2011 Bengals, it is that their games are usually decided in the final minutes. Against Jacksonville, the Bengals battled with a surprisingly resilient opponent before taking the lead late in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by Bernard Scott. Scott's first touchdown of the season came only minutes after Jaguars' rookie Blaine Gabbert connected with wide receiver Jason Hill for a stunning 74-yard score. The Jaguars' first second-half touchdown of the season was the result of a defensive breakdown between Bengal cornerback Leon Hall and safety Chris Crocker. However, Hill's score was an aberration compared to the rest of the game in which the Bengals limited the Jaguars' offense to 276 total yards and just 6 third-down completions. Outside of a few bouncing scampers from running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars were forced to rely on their rookie quarterback which in the face of a persistent northern Florida wind was a risky proposition. Throughout the afternoon, the Bengals' pass rush both hurried Gabbert and benefitted from the rookie's indecision. Despite collecting only three sacks, the Bengals' defense knocked Gabbert around and crowded his passing lanes. On numerous offensive possessions, Gabbert tended to hurry his throws and showed the type of inaccuracy characteristic of a rookie starter. Often, Gabbert's three-quarter sidearm release was knocked down by either a stiff wind or the hands of Bengal defenders. Gabbert's day was effectively finished when the Missouri product helplessly watched an errant Brad Meester shotgun snap sail beyond the rookie's hands. In an abrupt contrast to Gabbert's struggles, Bengals' rookie quarterback Andy Dalton added to his burgeoning legend. Dalton led the Bengals on a game-winning fourth quarter drive for the second consecutive week. However, after leading his offense to two fourth-quarter scores in Buffalo last week, Dalton's task against Jacksonville was a bit simpler. After a wind-swept 22-yard punt by the Jaguars' Matt Turk, Dalton and the Bengals took over on the Jacksonville 23. Yet, Dalton delivered perhaps the game's biggest play by connecting with tight end Jermaine Gresham on a key fourth down completion to continue the eventual game-winning drive. Dalton's accuracy on third and fourth downs allowed an otherwise sluggish Bengals' offense to sustain enough momentum to carry into the latter stages of the game. In particular, Dalton's on-field relationship with fellow rookie A.J. Green continued to develop against the Jaguars. Dalton and Green rescued the Bengals on several key passing downs connecting for 5 completions and 90 yards including an early 37-yard score. Perhaps the most impressive component of Dalton's performance was demonstrated through the rookie's unnatural composure. With only four career starts on his NFL resume, Dalton never appeared rattled even in the face of a scoring slump that lasted for more than two quarters. By the time Dalton and his offense had recovered, the combination of the Bengals' defense and an overwhelmed Gabbert had already paved the way for the team's third victory of 2011. By the time Geno Atkins danced into the end zone for an after the fact touchdown, both Dalton and the Bengals as a whole again redefined what "predictable" means in the NFL.
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