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Andy Dalton turns corner in win over Ravens

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As we mentioned on the latest "Around the NFL Podcast," Sunday delivered an inspired version of Andy Dalton.

The Bengals quarterback battled his team back from a pair of fourth-quarter deficits in a wild 28-24 road win over the division-rival Ravens. He's played this kind of game before, but Sunday suggested something different: Maturation for a passer we didn't think could evolve. 

Exiting Week 3 ranking fourth in Total QBR, Dalton didn't shrink under pressure, throwing the ball aggressively and challenging a Baltimore secondary that had no answer for the chunk-yardage onslaught unspooled by Bengals wideout A.J. Green and Cincy's cast of talented pass-catchers.

Dalton hit on 11 passes of 14-plus yards, including ropes of 23, 31, 31, 32, 47 and 80 yards. He also had a 17-yard touchdown pass yanked by a penalty.

Granted, he must do this consistently against the AFC North and the rest of the NFL. With Dalton, history tells us that we'll write complimentary prose about his early-season work, only to see him betray those encouraging words with a disastrous game when it matters most.

What stood out Sunday, though, was Dalton's confidence, shaking off his first lost fumble and pick of the season to drive the Bengals down the field time after time. He calmly chewed through the Ravens on a game-winning drive that covered 80 yards before sealing the deal with a seven-yard touchdown strike to Green -- effectively placing Baltimore's season on life support.

We've regularly ripped Dalton because his play has so often deserved it. He's earned a reputation for holding the team down -- especially when the spotlight burns brightest -- but Sunday delivered a hopeful note. 

It's a massive-sized "if," but if Dalton can keep this up, the Bengals are going to win a playoff game this season and shred the narrative that they're nothing more than a regular-season heavy that turns to dust when the clock strikes January.

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