It's unclear if the Saints are going to turn to backup quarterback Andy Dalton again for Sunday's game in New Orleans (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), but it sure would fit the Bourbon Street Reunion narrative bubbling for the Caesars Superdome.
The game marks the return of a pair of LSU icons in Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase to the building where they won the 2019 NCAA title. Plus, former Saints draft picks Vonn Bell and Trey Hendrickson return as playoff heroes and league-leading Bengals. With three interceptions this season, Bell is second in the NFL. Hendrickson's 30 sacks are tied with Aaron Donald for the third most sacks in the 2020s. Cornerback Eli Apple is another former Saint turned Cincinnati postseason star.
Dalton, two weeks shy of 35, has come off the bench for the injured Jameis Winston the past two weeks and has outplayed him with a 98.5 passer rating and a 69.2 completion percentage. He led them to a win Sunday over Seattle a week after nearly leading them to a win over the Vikings in London.
In what would be the 15th game a former starting Bengals quarterback would face his old team, Dalton would be trying to become the first to beat Cincinnati with three different teams. He beat the Brandon Allen Bengals in 2020 with the Cowboys and the Joe Burrow Bengals last season, though he left early with an injury in the Bears' 20-17 win.
Dalton would tie Jeff Blake at 3-0 when it comes to former starting Bengals quarterbacks against Cincinnati in a series the old quarterbacks lead, 10-4. The last win came against the Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 2016 opener.
If you count the Steelers recently benched Mitch Trubisky, it would mark the fifth time in six games the Bengals have faced a backup quarterback for most of the game. But all those guys (Trubisky, Dalton, Cooper Rush, Joe Flacco, Teddy Bridgewater) all have winning records.
Former Bengals QBs Vs. Cincy
o 9/25/1983 TB Jack Thompson W 23 17
o 11/21/1993 NYJ Boomer Esiason L 12 17
o 12/18/1994 ARI Jay Schroeder L 7 28
o 10/25/1998 OAK Donald Hollas L 10 27
o 11/10/2002 BAL Jeff Blake L 27 38
o 12/01/2002 BAL Jeff Blake L 23 27
o 11/02/2003 ARI Jeff Blake L 14 17
o 11/21/2010 BUF Ryan Fitzpatrick L 31 49
o 10/02/2011 BUF Ryan Fitzpatrick W 23 20
o 11/25/2012 OAK Carson Palmer W 34 10
o 11/22/2015 ARI Carson Palmer L 31 34
o 9/11/2016 NYJ Ryan Fitzpatrick W 23 22
12/22/19 MIA Ryan Fitzpatrick L 38-35 (OT)
12/13/20 DAL Andy Dalton L 30-7
9/19/21 CHI Andy Dalton L 20-17
INJURY UPDATE: Left tackle Jonah Williams reached down deep Sunday night. He missed the last six plays of the first half when he went down with an MCL sprain, but came back in the second half and ended up playing 90 percent of the snaps on a night Pro Football Focus made him the highest graded Bengal on offense with no pressures on 37 snaps.
Taylor said Williams is day-to-day, indicating there would be some pain the days after. Wide receiver Tee Higgins (sprained ankle) looks to be in the same boat. He had been limited all last week and could only go ten plays early in the game.
"Obviously it was touch and go there. We'll just have to continue to rest him." Taylor said. "He was trying to manage it all week. Tried to give it a go for the game. Came out early at halftime. Still wanted to make himself available in case it came up. We've got to be mindful as we practice this week to make sure when we get him to the game he's healthy. I don't know what the practice will look like this week. We'll just have to take it day-to-day with him."
BOYD MANS UP: Five years ago on the last snap of his season, Bengals slot receiver Tyler Boyd ran into an M&T Bank Stadium end zone with the 49-yard, fourth-and-12 touchdown catch that jump started his career and knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs.
On Sunday night late in the third quarter and the Bengals looking to take a 17-13 lead from the Baltimore 2, Boyd, the old high school quarterback who once held the storied Western Pennsylvania career touchdown record, stared into the same end zone as he ran the Bengals version of "The Philly Special."
On second down, cornerback Marcus Peters blew it up when he kept coming for Boyd instead of covering wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. Boyd took a 13-yard sack that led to a series the Bengals came away with no points after holding the ball for about eight minutes.
"Unfortunately, they got us that play," Boyd said. "They weren't in man, which was what we expected. If they were in man it probably would have worked out a little differently. I should have made a better decision and thrown the ball away, but I was trying to make a play."
Taylor took the blame instead.
"That's not something I put on TB, it's something you rep a couple times in practice and in the game, it unfolds a little differently than how it could've played out," Taylor said. "That's 100 percent on me for the play not working out and our guys not being put in the best position possible. That's not on TB. We can say all day, 'Throw the ball away.' You're asking a guy on a specialty play, they want to make a play. Their instinct is to make a play."
RUSTLING RUN: The Bengals had their best day of the season running the ball with running back Joe Mixon averaging 5.6 yards for his 14 carries. With the Ravens doing what other teams are doing and not letting Burrow unleash his receivers on the deep ball by laying back in zones, players and coaches realize the only way they can get teams out of it is by running the ball.
"Mostly every team we've played so far is playing two high so we've got to run the ball," Boyd said. "We can't really utilize our outside playmakers as much as everybody and myself wants. At the end of the day, whatever they give us is what we got to attack. You saw the run game start to open up and that's going to create opportunities for us to get plays off."
Taylor is saying the same thing.
"It complemented what we were finding success with in the past there in the second quarter, second half," Taylor said. "I thought those guys up front did a good job, the tight ends did a good job, the backs did a really good job, Mixon and Samaje (Perine). There was some combination stuff we were trying to do with the runs and passes there that we found some success with.
REASONS: Here's why Taylor went for it on fourth down from the 2 with 2:45 left in the third quarter and the Ravens leading, 13-10. Burrow's fourth-down shovel pass intended for wide receiver Stanley Morgan cutting up the middle went nowhere. Taylor said he passed up the tying field goal because he felt his defense was playing so well that a 17-13 lead would be close to a dagger. Plus, with the Ravens backed up on 20, he anticipated the Bengals getting the ball back at midfield and not Baltimore keeping it for 8:03, 91 yards and 15 plays for a field goal.
Taylor stressed the two times they ran it this season before Sunday night, Boyd's touchdown was wiped out by penalty and tight end Hayden Hurst reached the one-inch line.