Andy Dalton led the Cincinnati Bengals to a comeback win at Atlanta on Sunday, completing two fourth-down passes before eventually finding A.J. Green in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left.
The Bengals’ offense scored on all four drives of the first half but stalled in the third quarter and needed Dalton’s heroics to rally back for a 37-36 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Meanwhile, the defense did just enough to give the offense a chance late, holding Atlanta to a field goal in the fourth quarter to set up the Bengals’ last possession. With their confident and poised-looking quarterback leading the charge, Tyler Boyd caught passes to convert a third down and two fourth-down plays on the game-winning drive before Green came up with a spectacular diving catch for a 13-yard touchdown.
»RELATED: Photos from the Bengals win
Here’s how we graded the Bengals performance in our weekly report card:
The Good: Giovani Bernard had two first-half touchdown runs to give the Bengals a 28-21 lead late in the second quarter. He finished with 15 carries for 69 yards and 4.6 yards per carry. Dalton had a nice 11-yard scramble shortly before the two-minute warning on the Bengals’ final drive.
The Bad: Cincinnati didn’t hit any home runs with the ground game. Bernard’s longest carry went for 14 yards. Rookie Mark Walton got the first carries of his NFL career but managed just nine yards on five rushes for a 1.8 yards per carry average. He was more effective in the passing game.
Key Play: Bernard gave the Bengals their first lead with a 10-yard touchdown run on second-and-2 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter, making it 14-7.
The Good: Dalton had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 going into halftime after completing 14 of 16 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and he remained poised enough down the stretch – despite a third-quarter interception – to complete the rally. He finished with 337 yards and three touchdowns, including a 39-yard toss to John Ross and a 15-yarder to Tyler Eifert. Boyd led the receivers with 100 yards on 11 catches.
The Bad: Injuries to Ross and Eifert marred an otherwise great day for the Bengals offense with the latter one especially hitting the team hard. Ross pulled his groin while hauling in his touchdown and tried to return but couldn’t finish. Eifert, who spent months working back from neck and back injuries, gruesomely broke his ankle and requires surgery. Dalton took a sack that pushed the Bengals out of field goal range midway through the third quarter and had an interception on a target to Tyler Kroft later in the period.
Key Play: With the Bengals trailing 36-31 and the clock winding down, Dalton hit Green in the back corner of the end zone for a spectacular diving catch and the game-winning score with 12 seconds left.
The Good: The Bengals held Tevin Coleman to 3.6 yards per carry, as he led the Falcons ground game with 14 rushes for 51 yards. Cincinnati keyed in on the pass, and Atlanta stuck mostly with the aerial attack.
The Bad: Ito Smith scored the first touchdown of the game on a 7-yard run and finished with 5.0 yards per carry.
Key Play: After a blocked punt put the Falcons on the Bengals’ 8-yard line early in the third quarter, Geno Atkins tackled Coleman for a two-yard loss on second down, and Atlanta ended up settling for a field goal.
The Good: The Bengals came up with three timely sacks, including one from Atkins on fourth-and-5 in the first quarter with the game tied at 7-7 and two in the second half that helped hold Atlanta to field goals. Rookie safety Jessie Bates made a tackle at the goal-line to stop a two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter.
The Bad: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan finished with 419 yards passing and three touchdowns. Julio Jones and former Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu both exceeded 100 yards receiving. Sanu finished with 111 yards, the most in his three years with the Falcons, and rookie Calvin Ridley had a 30-yard touchdown catch to start the fourth quarter and put Atlanta up 33-28.
Key Play: Carl Lawson sacked Ryan on second-and-12 from the Bengals’ 12-yard line on Atlanta’s second to last drive of the game, and the Falcons ended up with a field goal for their final points.
The Good: Kevin Huber pinned Atlanta inside the 10-yard line on a 31-yard punt in the third quarter with Cincinnati holding a 28-27 lead. Alex Erickson had two kickoff returns for 82 yards.
The Bad: Two plays after Eifert’s injury on the opening drive of the second half, Kevin Huber’s punt was blocked to set the Falcons up at the Cincinnati 8-yard line. Atlanta opened the game with a 53-yard kick return and took advantage of the short field to get on the board first.
Key Play: After Atlanta took a 33-28 lead in the fourth quarter, Erickson had a 47-yard kick return to put the Bengals near midfield and Cincinnati got a field goal out of it.
The Good: The Bengals scored on their last possessions in both halves, including a masterful game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to earn a quality win on the road. They only had six penalties, and one was a personal foul call on Lawson that seemed questionable.
The Bad: Cincinnati once again gave up points at the end of the first half, as the Falcons took over on their own 25 with 44 seconds left and got a 55-yard field goal as time expired. The defense continued its third-down struggles, as Atlanta converted on eight of nine third downs.
Key Play: With the game on the line, Bill Lazor dialed up a series of plays to get the Bengals the win.