LANDOVER, Md. — A creative game plan by the Cincinnati Bengals produced three first-half touchdowns on snaps to three different players, several reverses, a no-huddle drive that looked unstoppable and a quarterback who scrambled for a big gain.
Then it was Robert Griffin III's turn.
Back and forth they went. The Bengals built a 17-point lead, blew the lead, and met razzle with dazzle today until a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes by Andy Dalton made the difference in a 38-31 win over Griffin and the Washington Redskins.
A 6-yard throw to tight end Jermaine Gresham, who stretched his arm to put the ball over the goal line, broke a 24-all tie early in the fourth, then Dalton hit Andrew Hawkins down the middle for a 59-yard strike to give the Bengals (2-1) a two-touchdown lead with 7:08 left to play.
Griffin fought back, scoring on a 2-yard run at the end of a 90-yard drive to cut the lead to 38-31 with 3:35 remaining. A final chance to tie ended with an incomplete pass on a third-and-50 from Washington's 41 on the game's final play, an unlikely scenario created by a sack, a false start and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The end was as wild as the start. Rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green on Cincinnati's first play, and Dalton threw an interception in his own end zone for a Redskins touchdown on the third play. It was 24-7 late in the second quarter after BenJarvus Green-Ellis took a direct snap to score on a 2-yard run.
Dalton went on to complete 19 of 27 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Green caught nine passes for a career-high 183 yards and a score.
The Bengals sacked Griffin five times, with three from Michael Johnson. Carlos Dunlap, making his season debut after missing the first two games with a sprained right knee, pawed the ball out of Griffin's hands with a jarring hit that set up Green Ellis’ touchdown. Cincinnati's defense, playing without cornerback Leon Hall (injured calf), was stellar in the first half and managed to hold on in the second.
Griffin repeatedly took a pounding as he completed 21 of 34 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. He also ran 12 times for 85 yards in front of a crowd chanting “RG3” in his home regular season debut.
The Redskins (1-2) had a first-quarter touchdown scored by the defense and a second-quarter field goal set up by a long kickoff return, so it wasn't until the opening drive of the third quarter that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner found some offensive rhythm, more than doubling Washington's total yardage output with an 80-yard drive capped by Alfred Morris’ spin-away-from-the-defense 7-yard run.
A 3-yard pass to Santana Moss tied the score in the third quarter, and the Redskins had all the momentum when they forced the first fumble in Green-Ellis’ five-year career near midfield on Cincinnati's next drive.
But Johnson's third sack forced Washington into a three-and-out. A few minutes later, Dalton led the first of the two long drives that put the Bengals ahead for good, handing the Redskins their seventh straight home loss.