CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton knows what it’s like to walk off the field a winner in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. That other AFC North city? Nothing but dejection.
Dalton’s Bengals have never won in Baltimore.
They’re 0-3 on the Ravens’ home field, where they’ve had some of their worst moments in the last three years. They’ll have a chance for what would amount to a huge breakthrough in their season opener Sunday.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to have another growing step,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said Wednesday. “We’ve talked about it over the years. We’ve had this little step here or that little step there where this team’s continued to improve. But we haven’t won in Baltimore.
“So what a great opportunity for us to go and try to get that milestone out of the way.”
A lot of it will be on their offense.
The Bengals have dropped their last four overall in Baltimore. Dalton and receiver A.J. Green have been around for the last three, which ended up as some of their worst games. Even the few exhilarating moments led to another loss.
Last year, Dalton threw a desperation 51-yard pass that was tipped directly to Green in the end zone, tying it at the end of regulation. One of the great plays in franchise history set up a 20-17 overtime loss.
Green had never played in a game that ended with the emotional swings of that one.
“That’s the first one,” Green said. “We just have to go out there and live in the moment.”
They’ve also lost 31-24 and 44-13 in Baltimore.
Dalton’s 52.2 passer rating for last year’s game was the second-lowest of his three-year career. And his other two games in Baltimore also are low on the list. In the three games overall, Dalton has completed only 53 percent of his passes with three touchdowns, seven interceptions, 11 sacks and a passer rating of 58.7.
“You’ve got to be sharp,” Dalton said. “I think turnovers have been the key in those games. We’ve played a lot of close games there. We just haven’t been able to come out on top.”
The teams swapped the division title the last two years. The Ravens won the division and the Super Bowl during the 2012 season. Last year, the Bengals beat the Ravens 34-17 at Paul Brown Stadium, eliminating them from playoff contention.
“In this league, you see it year to year: You don’t get to hold onto anything very long,” Whitworth said. “We were division champs last year, but I promise you Baltimore doesn’t care about that. We’ve got to go out and win it again this year.
“It’s a great game to start that off and kick it off — two teams that have been good, been to the playoffs and are fighting for the opportunity to be on top.”
A breakthrough in Baltimore would make Cincinnati the clear front-runner.
“It’s big,” Dalton said. “The way the schedule is, they start us off right off the bat with a division opponent. So it does set the tone. It really shows the expectations of what we have here.”
Notes: The Bengals signed rookie WR Tevin Reese to the final spot on their practice squad. Reese was San Diego’s seventh-round pick out of Baylor. He was waived in the final cut. … LB Vontaze Burfict (hamstring), TE Tyler Eifert (shoulder), RT Andre Smith (concussion) and RB Cedric Peerman (hip) had full practices Wednesday. Coach Marvin Lewis said a decision on whether Smith can play on Sunday will be made later in the week. … The Bengals have accepted the NFL option of lifting local TV blackouts when 85 percent of their non-premium seats are sold at Paul Brown Stadium. “Sales are not as strong to date as we’d like,” said Andrew Brown, director of ticket sales. “Even under the 85 percent plan, we will need strong sales from this point to get games on TV.”
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