A.J. Green hauls in a 50-yard scoring strike from quarterback Andy Dalton
ATLANTA — The quarterbacks, the coaches and the receivers were all having fun with this one after the Bengals beat the Falcons Thursday night, 24-19, at the Georgia Dome and on national TV to go to 2-0 in the preseason.
Quarterback Andy Dalton has generated points in three of his five drives. Tight end Jermaine Gresham has popped big plays in each game and his knee is fine. The first-team Bengals scored 10 points on a Falcons defense that put the Ravens through three three-and-outs last week. Dalton, who completed just 50 percent of his third-down passes last season, converted three in his first touchdown drive of the season.
"I thought we've done a good job; we've got in a good rhythm," said Dalton, who rung up a 110.7 passer rating on 8-of-14 for 125 yards. "I've felt like the guys have responded well. We had an unfortunate fumble (by running back Brian Leonard) but other than that I thought we moved the ball very well.
"I think we've done some good things. There's definitely room for improvement. If you look at what we've done so far I think we've done a good job."
The Bengals felt good enough about it that when offensive coordinator Jay Gruden saw Dalton talking on a podium to the media after the game, he joked, "You need a microphone?"
Dalton quipped into the microphone, "I had to change the play because Jay called something wrong," and Gruden went to the bus laughing.
But what the club was really having fun with is Dalton and Green revisiting last season's rookie magic when Green schooled 10-year cornerback Asante Samuel and Dalton pooh-poohed the pundits on a textbook 50-yard touchdown pass that served as the first-team's last snap of the night.
And Dalton was having the most fun of anybody.
"Andy can't throw the deep ball; you saw that tonight," said Dalton's backup, Bruce Gradkowski, who didn't even bother to put his tongue in his cheek. "He threw a great ball to A.J., that's for sure. I think he got lucky on that one."
Greg Cosell of NFL Films questioned Dalton's arm strength during the spring and the arm thing got some legs. Until Dalton threw a couple of bombs in the spring camps. The questions seemed to die before training camp, but Dalton couldn't help a dig at the critics at halftime and after the game.
"On national TV. Maybe people will say things differently now," Dalton said. "It's not holding me back. It's not changing the way I play the game. They can say whatever they want. As long as we win games. As long as I'm getting the ball to the right guys, I'm not worried about it.
"It seemed like one person said it, so everybody started saying it. That's the knock on me ... everybody can find something. People are always going to be talking about something."
Dalton had to step up in the pocket and move his feet on third-and-15, and he still put it about 50 yards in the air. He said he can put even more juice into it if he must.
Before the bomb he didn't connect with Green on two long ones. Dalton said he double-pumped the first one down the left sideline when he felt pressure and didn't get the ball out when he wanted to and he was a little late and short.
On the second, Green got open down the middle, but he ran out of room in the back of the end zone when Dalton overthrew it and it looked like he still caught it.
"I didn't think I threw it as far as I did. If I threw it short it would have been a touchdown," said Dalton with a shrug. "A yard too far. That is going to happen sometimes."
But on third-and-15, Dalton was surprised the Falcons let Green go one-on-one.
"I'm glad they did," he said. "That's what we expect out of him. That's what we expect out of me."
There was certainly no problem with arm strength.
"He threw a bomb this time," said the ever-serious Green. "On a dime."