CINCINNATI (AP) — Coach Zac Taylor had an inkling it might be a good day for the Cincinnati Bengals when Joe Burrow connected with Tyler Boyd on a deep ball for a touchdown early in the game.
The play unfolded exactly as it was planned, with Boyd streaking down the middle and Burrow hitting him in stride for a 60-yard score.
“That (play) was one we were locked in on early,” Taylor said after the Bengals struck quickly and ran away from the Atlanta Falcons 35-17 on Sunday.
Burrow passed for 345 yards in the first half alone as the Bengals scored on their first four possessions.
“We threw a lot of looks at him, and he just knows where to go with it,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said.
The Cincinnati quarterback played his best game of the season — and the second-best of his career — finishing 34 of 42 for 481 yards and three touchdowns and adding a 1-yard run for a score. He became the first QB to have five games of 400 yards or more in his first three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“Any time you go down and score on the first drive on a big play like that, you think it could be one of those days,” Burrow said. “But it was really about the execution throughout the whole game.”
Cincinnati (4-3) moved above .500 for the first time this season and remained in a tie with Baltimore atop the AFC North.
“Well, I hope you all listened to me as I got up here at 0-2 and said just be patient,” Taylor said. “This season is very young. We know what type of team we have and the faith I have in these players and coaches. This season is still in its infancy stages. Today gave us a chance to separate a little bit.”
Cincinnati receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd both eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the first half. Boyd finished with a career-high 155 yards on eight catches. Chase also caught eight passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Marcus Mariota completed just eight passes for the Falcons (3-4), whose strong running game was also stymied by Cincinnati. Mariota threw for 124 yards, and Atlanta generated only 214 yards of offense to the Bengals' 537.
“They did a good job defensively to get us off the field and then sustain drives,” said Mariota, who attempted a season-low 13 passes. “They were throwing it around, but they were able to keep the ball and win time of possession. When you’re already behind 14, 21 points, they’re holding the ball and we’re going to have limited possessions.”
Cincinnati's Tee Higgins had five receptions for 93 yards, including a 22-yard gain that set up Burrow's TD plunge in the third quarter to cap the Bengals' scoring.
“There’s no defense in the league that can stop what we got,” Higgins said.
After the initial Cincinnati touchdown and an Atlanta punt, a scrambling Burrow hit Joe Mixon on second-and-5 for 22 yards to extend a drive that Mixon finished off with a 1-yard TD plunge.
After another Atlanta punt, Burrow went to work again, completing seven passes in a row, the last a 32-yard scoring toss to Chase amid two defenders.
“I think that was definitely the best pass he’s ever thrown (to me),” Chase said. “Like that was a dime, bro — a dime.”
Down 21-0, the Falcons then pieced together a 10-minute drive capped by a 1-yard dive by Tyler Allgeier — his first NFL touchdown.
Chase caught his second TD pass late in the first half, stopping at the far sideline to make the catch and then running past cornerback Darren Hall.
A LITTLE MOMENTUM
Atlanta got some juice back when it scored 10 points in final 39 seconds of the first half. Mariota hit Damiere Byrd for a 75-yard TD. After a Cincinnati three-and out, Younghoe Koo booted a 43-yard field goal to make it 28-17 at the half.
“We had about the worst 30-second stretch we could have there in the second quarter,” Taylor said. “But our guys took a deep breath at halftime, our defense came out, responded like they always do, got a stop to start the half.”
FORGET THE RUN?
The rushing game has taken a back seat for the Bengals this season, and Sunday was no exception. Mixon had 17 carries for 58 yards. He also caught three passes for 33 yards.
Falcons: CB A.J. Terrell limped off in the first quarter and was declared out with a hamstring injury. ... CB Mike Ford left with an ankle injury in the second half. ... S Jaylinn Hawkins left in the second half and was evaluated for a head injury.
Bengals: RT La'el Collins went to the locker room in the second quarter with a left ankle injury but returned in the second half. ... DE Trey Hendrickson left with a neck injury in the second half.
Falcons: Host NFC South rival Carolina next Sunday.
Bengals: At AFC North rival Cleveland on Monday, Oct. 31.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL