Leading the Bengals to a playoff win is obviously the number one thing that Andy Dalton needs to do to shut up his critics. But beating the Ravens in Baltimore was on the list too.
“Nobody can say that the young guys haven’t won here because they did,” said offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. “Kudos to Andy. I’m very proud and excited about what he did today.”
Dalton finished 25-for-38 for 301 yards with 1 TD, 0 INT, and a passer rating of 98.7. If you include the preseason, Andy has completed 68% of his 72 pass attempts without an interception or fumble.
“The biggest thing we’ve been preaching is that if we don’t turn the ball over, we’re going to be hard to beat,” said Jackson.
“That’s the one thing that’s been an emphasis for us – taking care of the ball,” said Dalton.
But avoiding turnovers isn’t always enough to win. In Sunday’s season opener, the Bengals appeared to be in trouble after blowing a 15-point halftime lead, as Joe Flacco’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith put the Ravens in front with 5:46 remaining.
“We didn’t flinch man,” said A.J. Green. “Our sideline was very calm.”
It didn’t stay calm for long as a celebration broke out just 48 seconds later when Dalton delivered a 77-yard strike to Green to win the game.
“We knew all that we needed was a field goal, but we had a chance to hit a big one,” said Dalton. “It comes to executing those and A.J. made a great play.”
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Green. “I was telling the guys that if we want to take that next step toward being great, that this is one of those games that could get us ready for heading into the playoffs in December where everything is not going to go your way. But when your number is called and you’ve got a chance to make a play, then you’ve got to make a play.”
The touchdown went to the same end zone where Green hauled in a 51-yard “Hail Mary” on the final play of regulation to force overtime in last year’s game in Baltimore.
Does Green think Ravens fans are sick of him?
“I hope so,” he said with a laugh.
It was Dalton’s seventh fourth quarter come-from-behind victory and he clearly outperformed Flacco. The Ravens quarterback threw an interception, had a passer rating of 71.0, and inexplicably held on to the ball for the last 8 seconds of the first half deep in Bengals territory to cost his team an easy field goal.
“That was probably the stupidest play I’ve ever made in football,” said Flacco. “I kind of just got caught up in the play and forgot about the situation. There’s no excuse for it – can’t happen.”
Imagine the national bash-fest if Dalton had done the same thing.
Instead he played a smart, turnover-free game and while the Bengals offense obviously has to improve in the red zone, Dalton can check another thing off of his “haven’t been able to do” list.
“There are a lot of tough places to play in this league and this is certainly one of the toughest,” said Dalton. “It was the only place (in the division) where I had not won since joining the Bengals. This was a complete victory by our whole team, but we have to remember it’s just one win and we have a lot of games left.”
“I thought our quarterback played his tail off,” said Jackson.
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