CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton has turned into a big pain for the Baltimore Ravens.
He threw four touchdown passes on Thursday night — three of them to A.J. Green — as the Cincinnati Bengals got ahead big and held on for a 34-23 victory that left them alone atop the AFC North.
It’s an unaccustomed spot for Cincinnati, which is off to its first 2-0 start since it won the division title in 2015.
Coach Marvin Lewis received a contract extension in part because of Dalton’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd in the closing seconds of the final game at Baltimore last season, which gave the Bengals a victory and knocked the Ravens out of playoff contention. Dalton made the big plays again on Thursday, leaving the Ravens (1-1) too far behind to catch up.
“We came out hot,” Dalton said. “That’s exactly how we wanted to start the game. That’s a big one — puts us 2-0 to start the year and gives us a leg up in the division.”
Down by 21 points, the Ravens made a run at it behind Joe Flacco, who threw a pair of touchdown passes. Flacco fumbled with 2:42 to go — Shawn Williams stripped the ball from behind — setting up a field goal by Randy Bullock that closed it out.
Flacco finished 32 of 55 for 376 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions , a fumble and four sacks.
“You better bounce back quick on a Thursday night and we didn’t do it quick enough tonight,” Flacco said.
Some takeaways from Cincinnati’s win:
SEEING GREEN: Green set a career high with his touchdown catches of 4, 32 and 7 yards. He became the fourth Bengals receiver to catch three TD passes in a half, joining Marvin Jones (2013), Chad Johnson (2003) and Isaac Curtis (1973). Green was upset with himself after fumbling twice in a 34-23 win at Indianapolis on Sunday, and he caught everything thrown his way early on.
“It just happened to fall that way,” Green said. “We were clicking on all cylinders. We were in a groove.”
DALTON’S DAY: Heading into the game, Dalton had thrown more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (15) against the Ravens, including a four-interception performance at Paul Brown Stadium last year. He finished 24 of 42 for 265 yards with no interceptions and no sacks. It was the fourth time he’s thrown four touchdown passes in a game. His career high is five against the Jets in 2013.
NOT THE BILLS: The Ravens were coming off their third-most lopsided win in club history, a 47-3 victory over Buffalo on Sunday. Flacco was sharp in two-plus quarters, throwing touchdown passes to three different receivers. But the Bengals gave him a tough time early, sacking him on each of Baltimore’s first three possessions and forcing a pass that was picked off.
“It was tough sledding early on, and we weren’t very precise,” Flacco said.
FAST START: The Bengals are 2-0 for only the fifth time in Lewis’ 16 seasons. They’re the first team to score at least 34 points in each of their first two games since the 2013 Broncos, who reached the Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
MISSING MOSLEY: Ravens middle linebacker C.J. Mosley left in the first quarter with a bruised knee. Coach John Harbaugh said an MRI found no ligament damage. The Ravens have two rookies as backup linebackers, Kenny Young and Chris Board.
“They didn’t play perfect,” Harbaugh said. “That’s going to hurt you for sure, and it did. It hurt mainly in coverage more than anything.”