Harbaugh: "That ends that and that stings."
Bengals fans haven’t been sold on quarterback Andy Dalton. Despite Cincinnati’s 34-17 victory over the Ravens on Sunday, their angst over the QB probably still hasn’t abated.
If you listened to the CBS announcers while you watched Sunday’s game — Ravens fans could be forgiven for not hearing some of the commentary while they yelled at the TV — you heard it mentioned that the Bengals have not won a playoff game in 23 years. Dalton can’t take the blame for that entire run of futility — and he can’t be expected to recall that 1990 postseason win, being that he was 3 years old at the time — but though he will be making his third straight playoff appearance to start his career, the previous two have been one-and-done affairs with losses to the Texans.
At least the Bengals don’t have to worry about making it three in a row to Houston. However, what is worrisome from the Cincinnati perspective is how Dalton finished up the season by throwing four interceptions against the Ravens.
And that was four picks in 36 passes, not a huge number by any means.
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On the final interception, by Jimmy Smith in the fourth quarter, the coaching staff did Dalton no favor by making an ill-advised call for a fade route to A.J. Green when the Bengals had a first down on the Ravens’ 1. Still, Dalton put the ball in a spot where Smith could get to it.
You could say much the same about the first interception, on the Bengals’ first offensive play of the game. Yes, Corey Graham made a terrific play, knocking the ball out of Marvin Jones’ hands and then snagging the rebound against his helmet. But the pass was a tad underthrown.
The other two interceptions? One way overthrown, one way underthrown.
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Attribute the victory partly to the fact that the Bengals still have an explosive offensive, with a deep, talented receiving corps led by Green and Jones and a big-play-waiting-to-happen running back in Giovani Bernard, and partly to a defense capable of clamping down to make up for a QB’s mistakes. Add to that a clever offensive scheme — forgetting that first-and-goal call for the moment — that completely flummoxed the Ravens defense at times, particularly on Dalton’s fake handoffs for quarterback keepers, one of which resulted in a touchdown.
With those qualities in their favor, the Bengals should be considered capable of making some noise in the playoffs besides “See ya.” But it’s hard to feel confident in a team’s chances when the quarterback punctuates his inconsistent season by turning the ball over four times.