ATLANTA (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals had no reason to panic when they trailed the Atlanta Falcons by five points with about four minutes remaining.
That was plenty of time for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and his top targets, Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green.
Dalton’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Green with 7 seconds remaining capped an impressive drive that lifted Cincinnati to a 37-36 win over the Falcons on Sunday.
“We didn’t flinch,” Dalton said. “We just kept going. That’s what you need to be a really good team and to be a good offense.”
Giovani Bernard ran for 69 yards and two touchdowns for Cincinnati (3-1), which retained at least a share of the AFC North lead.
Dalton completed four passes to Boyd, including two on fourth-down plays, as he moved the Bengals 75 yards on 16 plays in about four minutes. He saved the game’s biggest pass for Green.
Green, the former University of Georgia star making his first return to the state of Georgia, made a diving catch on a corner route in the right side of the end zone to cap the drive.
“You’ve got to make the play when your number is called,” Green said. “My number was called.”
Green said he slid to make sure he remained in bounds. He had four catches for 78 yards.
Dalton completed 29 of 41 passes for 337 yards , three touchdowns and one interception.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said it’s only fitting his team enjoys some last-minute success.
“Damn if we hadn’t had enough of being on the other side of it,” Lewis said.
Matt Ryan threw three scoring passes, including two to rookie Calvin Ridley , for the Falcons (1-3).
The Falcons have scored more than 30 points in three straight games but won only one of the three.
Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, has thrown eight touchdown passes in the past two weeks and has 10 through four games after throwing only 20 in 2017.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said his team lacks the instinct needed “to close the door” with a lead. “We’re going to develop that instinct,” he said. “We do not have it as we need it right now.”
Here are some takeaways from the Bengals-Falcons game:
The Bengals’ celebration was tempered by the loss of tight end Tyler Eifert to what appeared to be a season-ending injury. He had four catches for 38 yards, including a 15-yard scoring catch in the first quarter, before suffering a gruesome lower right leg injury early in the third quarter.
Eifert, the team’s third-leading receiver entering the game, caught a 2-yard pass and was tackled by De’Vondre Campbell and Jack Crawford. Eifert brought his hands up to his helmet as he was on his back in obvious pain. His leg stabilized by the medical staff, Eifert received encouragement from teammates before he was carted off the field.
Ridley is the first NFL rookie with six touchdown catches in his first four games. The total is especially impressive because Ridley didn’t have a catch in the Falcons’ opener at Philadelphia.
The Bengals have enjoyed the strong start despite playing three of their first four games on the road.
“We knew it was going to be tough sledding,” Lewis said. “Not as good as we hoped but we earned this. It won’t matter if we don’t take care of business the rest of the way.”
Falcons second-year defensive end Takk McKinley had three sacks , giving him five for his season. His emergence is a bright spot for a defense obviously struggling to replace injured safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, who are lost for the season, and linebacker Deion Jones, who must miss at least eight games.
“I think all three of our (losses), the defense had a chance to get them off the field and win it for the team,” McKinley said. “We’ll get it going. I’m not going to say I’m not too worried, but the team we’ve got here, we’ll get it rolling.”
Each team was without its top running back. Devonta Freeman missed his third straight game for Atlanta with a sore right knee. Mixon was held out for the second straight week for the Bengals after having debris removed from his right knee.
Mixon showed he’s healing well when he ran down the sideline to celebrate Green’s catch late in the game.