It was a happy homecoming for Andy Dalton, as he orchestrated a Dallas Cowboys victory against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14 that may feel pretty meaningless but actually keeps the Cowboys very much alive in the NFC East race.
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STORY OF THE GAME
Dallas is now only a game back from the division lead, and even though they aren’t in a good place in terms of tiebreakers, they can still win the division by doing nothing more than beating other NFC East teams down the stretch.
However unlikely that remains, it was important for them to beat a team like the Bengals, who clearly have little going for them this season since the loss of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. And that’s exactly what they did in Week 14.
The Cincinnati defense has provided a get-right game for a lot of teams so far this season, and that’s what it proved to be this week, even for a Dallas team that is down to the bare bones on the offensive line.
In truth, Dalton and the Dallas offense didn’t even need to do anything particularly impressive, as the Bengals fumbled the ball away for the entirety of the first quarter. With more than 14 minutes on the clock in Quarter 2, they had already put the ball on the ground and set Dallas up nicely three times.
Dalton threw two touchdown passes and left with a passer rating of 122.0, but he only needed to attempt 23 passes and pick up 185 total passing yards.
The Bengals couldn’t get out of their own way on offense and just never had the firepower to dig themselves out of the hole that three early fumbles created. Quarterback Brandon Allen battled through getting banged up but just couldn’t make enough plays. Cincinnati’s run game was not unproductive when they did run the ball, but the fumbles undid any good and undermined the entire offense from the outset.
Dallas had four trips to the red zone and scored all four times, converting two to touchdowns and the other two into field goals. They were efficient and didn’t make the critical three mistakes that Cincinnati did.
Bengals receiver Tee Higgins recorded seven targets and five catches as he takes aim at Cris Collinsworth’s rookie receptions record of 67 catches. Higgins tallied 49 yards — 31 of which came after the catch — as he moved the chains four times but dropped one of the incompletions.
Terence Steele played all game at tackle for Dallas, and while his run blocking was suspect, he allowed just two pressures on 25 pass-blocking snaps. CeeDee Lamb played 25 snaps on offense, which seems curiously low given the plays he made when he did get a chance. He caught both passes thrown his way for 46 yards and also took a carry for 15, with 19 yards after contact.
On the defensive line, Neville Gallimore played 36 snaps inside, grading reasonably well overall. Gallimore had one defensive stop but couldn’t register any pressure in 19 pass rushes as the Bengals were intent on getting the ball out of their quarterback’s hands as quickly as possible throughout the game.
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