Stop­ping Ben­gals’ Dal­ton key in must-win game for Ravens

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NFL -

Key matchup

The Ben­gals have a new coach and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, but quar­ter­back Andy Dal­ton’s strengths re­main the same. Dal­ton is a rhythm quar­ter­back and he loves to throw short tim­ing pat­terns. The Ben­gals like to run a lot of run-pass op­tion plays with Dal­ton. If he gets hot, he can beat any team. But if he is con­tained, the Ben­gals will prob­a­bly lose. Dal­ton has com­pleted 129 of 204 passes for 1,412 yards and seven touch­downs. To be suc­cess­ful, the Ravens have to stop the run so they won’t be fooled by play-ac­tion. They also have to try to knock down quick passes. The play of the lineback­ers will be a key be­cause they have to get good drops and fill pass­ing lanes.

What’s at stake

The Ravens want to win this one be­cause it is a di­vi­sion game and will give them two wins in a row. They have strug­gled against the Ben­gals in re­cent years, so a win gives them some con­fi­dence. Af­ter Cincin­nati, the sched­ule gets a lit­tle harder. The Ravens travel to Seat­tle and host New Eng­land in a na­tion­ally tele­vised game af­ter a bye. If the Ravens have play­off as­pi­ra­tions, they have to beat the poor teams like the Ben­gals.

Ben­gals quar­ter­back Andy Dal­ton breaks a tackle in a 2015 meet­ing with the Ravens.

What’s on the radar

Be­fore ev­ery­one declares Pitts­burgh’s sea­son of­fi­cially over, let’s see what hap­pens with Steel­ers rookie quar­ter­back Devlin Hodges. He com­pleted seven of nine passes for 68 yards in the sec­ond half of the Steel­ers’ 26-23 over­time loss to the Ravens a week ago. He moved and threw well and put the long ball back in Pitts­burgh’s of­fense. The Steel­ers still need to find an­other re­ceiver to play op­po­site of JuJu Smith-Schus­ter, but the de­fense played well against the Ravens. It is way too early to count al­most any team out of con­tention, but Hodges might be the an­swer for the Steel­ers now and in the long run.

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