BALTIMORE, Md. - The Ravens dared Andy Dalton to beat them.
"And he did," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth after Sunday's wild 28-24 victory for the Bengals that saw the lead change four times in a 4:39 span of the fourth quarter.
"Whether it was putting eight men in the box or blitzing DBs, they gave him a chance to beat them."
Dalton threw for a career-best 383 yards and two of his three TD passes gave the Bengals the lead with 6:37 left and then for good with 2:10 left. Both went to A.J. Green working out of the slot with man-to-man matchups that didn't come close. The first one came from 80 yards out and erased their first deficit of the season in 12 seconds as Green caught it on the run and racked up about 60 yards after the catch.
"Even after that long one to A.J. I knew it wasn't over because of history and the way things go," Dalton said after his third straight fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Ravens and 10th of his career.
Last year here Steve Smith Sr., caught an 80-yarder to give the Ravens the lead with more than six minutes left. Then Green and Dalton won it a minute later with a 77-yarder.
This winner came from seven yards out with 2:10 left and came when Dalton changed the play and protection at the line, bringing in tight end Tyler Eifert from split wide to the line as the play clock ran.
"Hue (Jackson) gives Andy a lot of freedom," Eifert said. "We've got confidence he'll put us in the right play.
Head coach Marvin Lewis couldn't help but rave.
"He did some great things today. Great things. That last touchdown was huge," Lewis said. "He got us in the right play, he put us in position. He changed everything (on the last play). He did a great job. The ball he fumbled, he tried to hold for that last second. He thought he had a play there. He's always learning. That's the good thing about Andy Dalton
Green finished with 227 yards, the second best in Bengals' history behind Chad Johnson's 260, beating his own 224 yards against Pittsburgh last season.
His best day ever got off to a miserable start. He dropped the first ball Dalton threw to him, a simple get-in-the-game toss across the line of scrimmage. And when it bounced off his hands the Bengals were lucky linebacker Courtney Upshaw dropped the deflection. Then on the nxt snap he was called for covering up tackle eligible Jake Fisher.
"He said, 'I'm good,'" said Lewis of their conversation after that series." I know you're good, you're great."
And he was.
"I told him, next time drop your first pass and we'll go from there," Dalton joked.
Cincinnati Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens in week 3 of the regular season 09/27/2015
Green: I'm my own biggest critic. When I mess up, I take it to heart and I try as hard as I can." . . .
Lewis agreed with the call at the end of the half, when the officials overturned Eifert's two-yard that would have given the Bengals a 21-0 lead. Eifert thought he let go of the ball when he broke the plane of the goal line. Lewis, a member of the NFL competition committee, said at that point the receiver is not a runner and has to secure the catch through falling to the ground. So it was a fourth-down incompletion.
"You have to possess the football and give it to the official. That's what I tell our guys all the time," Lewis said. "Reaching for the goal line, if you haven't completed the catch, you're not a runner yet. So that's what they deemed, he wasn't a runner yet. He has to hold onto the football. It's not a rule. It's an interpretation, so you have to make sure that you possess the ball through the ground. If you are catching the football, and in the act of getting knocked to the ground, you've got to possess the football. If you understand it, plain and simple like that, you'll say that's incomplete."
It's a confusing rule and this proved it. Everyone but Lewis had a hard time getting their arms around it. Since Eifert took three steps with the ball, he seemed to secure it. Even Eifert said, "I guess I don't know the rule.
"In my head," Eifert said, "I'm thinking get the ball over the goal line and the play is over. Obviously that's not ideal ball security when you reach out both hands. It's up tight. But I don't think I would have scored if I put the ball up there. . . . I need to hang on to the ball. I thought once you (broke) the plane, the play was over. I need to end the play with the ball in my hands and that's that." . . .
Cornerback Dre Kirkpartrick hurt his shoulder trying to haul down Steve Smith on his 50-yard touchdown play that cut the lead to 14-7 with 6:23 left in the third quarter. But he stayed in.
"There were times I wanted to tap out," Kirkpatrick said. "But there were too many people watching on TV." . . .
After a fourth quarter dominated by offense, Bengals nose tackle Domata Peko knew his unit played a vital role in fending off Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacdo didn't get sacked and he only got hit once. But he coiuld never get his play-action game off the ground because the Bengals held Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett to just yards on 10 carries and held the Ravens' 11th best running game in the league to 36 yards on 18 carries.
"They're one of the best running teams around and to hold them to that was big," Peko said. "We were able to put pressure on Flacco. We've got some things to clean up, but we're 3-0 and this is how you want to be doing it."