The Bengals first drive was a big one, not because Andy Dalton drove his team down the field for a touchdown, but because it started on a mental error that set the tone for the game for Cincinnati. The team had the first possession of the game. Brandon Tate stood downfield awaiting his opportunity to return the pigskin.
As he felt the ball on his fingertips and started his mad dash across the field, Tate dropped the ball on the grass. The Bengals were lucky, as Tate as able to fall on it and recover his own fumble. However the field placement, on Cincinnati’s own nine yard line, was not ideal.
Andy Dalton wrangled his offensive troops together and went to work. The quarterback marched his team down the field. After taking 7:21 off of the clock, Dalton managed to hit tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 19 yard score in the end zone.
This beginning sequence to last Sunday’s matchup against the San Diego Chargers was a foretelling of the afternoon. The game should have gone the other way several times, but just when you thought the Bengals were out of the competition, the team would do something great again.
Andy Dalton threw two critical interceptions, bringing his season total to 13. This was an area where Dalton had struggled all season long, finally ending the streak in the team’s turnaround game against the New York Giants. The second year quarterback had been much improved and was turnover free in the previous three game win streak.
Watching him throw the first interception left us holding our breath, as we watched Demorrio Williams take the ball into the end zone for the only San Diego touchdown of the game. Watching Dalton throw the second interception left us with our hands over our eyes, waiting for our team to unravel. It is rare when a quarterback and can come out in a game and throw more than one interception and still get a win for his team.
Dalton wasn’t the only one turning the ball over either. The day was a sloppy one for the Bengals squad. Gresham lost a fumble while the team was in Chargers territory, trying to take the lead from the home team. Then Andrew Hawkins lost one on the grass that luckily rolled out of bounds setting up a field goal instead of a would-be touchdown for the team.
Still with all of the errors and poor ball security, Cincinnati pulled off a win on the road. This win was an important one for the Queen City. It not only proved to the team that they can persevere and have the talent to win games in the face of setbacks, but it also kept them in playoff contention.
With the win, the Bengals are 7-5 and still tied for the last playoff spot for the AFC. Pittsburgh pulled out a win in their game over Baltimore, not allowing the Bengals to own sole possession of the Wild Card berth. However, Cincinnati almost kept themselves out of that position.
Even though they got the win after three turnovers and five total mistakes, Cincinnati must clean up their play. The game on Sunday came down to a little skill, a little help, and a lot of luck for the Bengals. They may not fare well against some of the upcoming teams on the schedule when they are exposed like they were in San Diego.