- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
For the first time since he was a kid who only saw the letters "NFL" in his dreams and had trouble fathoming they could become his reality, Jones reached the end zone more than twice in a game. In fact, in Sunday's 49-9 win over the New York Jets, he did it four times.
"It's fun when the offense is clicking," Jones said. "Andy did a great job distributing the ball, and it was great play calling."
It was so great that often it appeared there was only one team on the field. The Jets, in their white and green uniforms, were just an extension of the turf the Bengals chopped up for much of the day. One of the chief choppers was Jones, whose eight-catch, 122-yard performance allowed some risk-taking fantasy football GMs to go to bed with smiles on their faces Sunday night. (If you started the player who is effectively the Bengals' third receiver, kudos to you.)
That wouldn't have been the day's only smart decision. Dalton's eight decisions to throw to Jones weren't too shabby, either.
The success the two enjoyed -- the quarterback became only the third Bengal to throw for five touchdowns in a game, and for the third game in a row he had more than 300 yards passing and three TDs -- was an extension of the confidence they have built in one another in recent weeks.
"He definitely trusts us," Jones said of Dalton, "and it shows in the distribution."
Since targeting A.J. Green 15 times against Cleveland four weeks ago, Dalton has learned a valuable lesson: get others involved in the offense. As valuable as Green can be to the offense, he can't do much good when defenses know that he's the player Dalton is trying to hit time and time again. But when opponents don't know where he's going with his passes, Dalton and his offense have proven they can be quite difficult to stop.
"Everybody around Andy is doing things. He has to continue to allow the play to work based on the defense," coach Marvin Lewis said. "As long as he does that and doesn't worry about how many catches 18 [Green] has, at the end of the day, we'll be fine. These other guys are getting to the spots and making the plays while they're there. A.J. is going to get his, he's so doggone good."
Jones said Dalton has been spending extra practice time and film study with him and the other receivers, in an effort to deepen their chemistry and trust. The more Dalton shows them he trusts them, the better their collective confidence can be, Jones said.
"Sometimes on Thursdays, Saturdays and on Fridays, we have extra meets just with us; the quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and tight ends," Jones said. "It's just having that extra time to see the game through each other's eyes that can get us really confident and comfortable in what the plan is and what we have to do. That's big, and that's something that Andy's been doing a good job of, and getting us all-in and all ready to go."
It took realizing how talented the team is at the skill positions for Dalton to realize that all he had to do was let his playmakers make their plays.
"The personnel that we have, and the different looks that we're getting with formations and the different things that we're doing, a bunch of guys are going to get involved in this offense," Dalton said. "That's big for us. Everybody's going to know where A.J. is, but these other guys have to step up and make plays, and that's what they've done. It's been a lot of fun for me, just to be able to spread the ball around and have trust and confidence in the guys that they're going to be in the right spots."
Through the first five games of the season, Dalton completed 65.1 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,215 yards and five touchdowns. In the last three games -- all wins -- he has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 1,034 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"I'm not sure the guy can play much better than he's played the last three weeks," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "I've said all along that we believe in him and we're going to continue to find ways to put him in a position to win. And he continues to rise to the occasion."