When Cincinnati Bengals fans hear the phrase the “90s,” it brings back some awful memories from the decade when the team went 52-108.
But the phrase has a new, much more positive connotation in 2014, as the Bengals have put together eight drives of 90 yards or more, with the most recent one being the difference maker Sunday in the team’s 34-17 victory against Baltimore.
Starting from their own 10-yard line after Baltimore had scored 11 unanswered points to tie the game with 5:13 left in the third quarter, Cincinnati went 90 yards in 12 plays and regained the lead for good on a 1-yard run by quarterback Andy Dalton.
“That was one of his best drives of the year,” Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said of Dalton, who was 5 for 5 for 56 yards to go along with two rushes for 10 yards. “
Of the eight 90-yard drives, five of them either tied the game or broke a tie. Two others produced crucial fourth quarter scores – a 95-yarder against Green Bay got the Bengals within 30-27 on the way to a 34-30 win; a 93-yarder against New England stretched a three-point lead to 10 with 9:21 left o play.
“Those are huge drives, and a lot of them have been in game-defining moments when you have to have it,” offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth said. “To be able to do it like that, it shows a lot of the grit of this team and the determination we have. Even when things go bad we’re prepared to come back and make the plays we need to make.”
That’s why when the Bengals took the field after Baltimore had scored its first touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game Sunday, no one in the huddle flinched.
“There were a lot of players that said ‘We’ve got to go now and show them what we do,’” wide receiver Marvin Jones said. “When we’re at home, we don’t bat an eye. That was kind of the whole conversation. It was ‘Man, let’s go. We’ve got this.’ The whole time they’re in the huddle that’s what everybody was saying until we scored.”
Record breakers: Dalton set single-season franchise records of 4,296 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes Sunday, breaking Carson Palmer’s marks of 4,115 and 32.
Dalton’s record-breaking touchdown pass was a 16-yarder in which Marvin Jones made a highlight-reel catch to give the Bengals a 17-6 lead with 1:51 left in the first half.
It also was Jones’ 10th touchdown catch of the season, making he and A.J. Green (11 receiving TDs) the first duo in team history to each reach double digits in TD catches.
“It’s funny because that was his record breaker, and it was our record breaker,” Jones said. “Maybe we’ll just put the ball up in the meeting room.”
Green finished with four catches for 61 yards, leaving him 15 yards shy of Chad Johnson’s single-season franchise record of 1,440.
“Came up short, but it’s fine,” Green said. “I’ve got a couple more years. I’ve got 10 more years in me.”
Line dance: The offensive line was constantly in flux Sunday, beginning 90 minutes before kickoff when tight ends Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and Tyler Eifert (neck) were made inactive.
Center Kyle Cook suffered a foot injury early in the game, although X-rays were negative, and tackle Anthony Collins missed time with an ankle injury. Third-string tight end Alex Smith left the game with a wrist dislocation.
But the offensive line didn’t allow a sack while paving the way for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to run for a season-high averaged of 6.0 yards per carry.
“The offensive line did an outstanding job today,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “Trevor (Robinson) stepped in at center and played most of the game. Andrew (Whitworth) played tackle and guard in the same game. We used everybody today.”