Bengals’ Dalton, Atkins Shine In AFC Pro Bowl Win

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Jan 29, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; AFC quarterback Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals (14) congratulates AFC tight end Travis Kelce of the Kansas city Chiefs (87) after he scored a touchdown during the second quarter at Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; AFC quarterback Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals (14) congratulates AFC tight end Travis Kelce of the Kansas city Chiefs (87) after he scored a touchdown during the second quarter at Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton and defensive tackle Geno Atkins played a big role in helping the AFC defeat the NFC, 20-13, at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Sunday night.

It wasn’t the late-January football that you’d hope for. But, it was gridiron action, nonetheless. The Cincinnati Bengals sent four players to the annual Pro Bowl, held in Orlando, Florida this year. The AFC prevailed 20-13, in a game where they didn’t trail at all.

Andy Dalton, Andrew Whitworth, Geno Atkins, and Carlos Dunlap represented the stripes. All four got to take home the $61,000 bonus granted to each member of the winning club.

Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton, making his third Pro Bowl appearance, was one of three signal-callers from the AFC. He joined the Chiefs’ Alex Smith and the Chargers’ Phillip Rivers. Out of the three, Dalton owned the highest passer rating in the regular season.

Alex Smith: 3,502 yards, 67.1% completion, 20 TD (five rush), 8 INT, 91.2 passer rating

Andy Dalton: 4,206 yards, 64.7% completion, 22 TD (four rush), 8 INT, 91.8 passer rating

Phillip Rivers: 4,386 yards, 60.4% completion, 33 TD, 21 INT, 87.9 passer rating

Dalton was named to the Pro Bowl last Monday in place of Tom Brady, who will be leading the Patriots into Super Bowl LI this Sunday in Houston against the Falcons.

Despite being sacked three times (the NFC racked up seven in total), Dalton was efficient, completing 10 passes for 100 yards, both team-highs. He broke a first half tie with two scoring drives for 10 points, the most for any of the six quarterbacks in the game.

After The Break

With the score tied at seven late in the second quarter, Dalton converted on third and 13, finding T.Y. Hilton, the NFL’s leading receiver, for a 16-yard gain. Two plays later, Dalton hit Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, a Cincinnati native, and former Bearcat, on a 23-yard touchdown to give the AFC a lead they would keep for the remainder of the contest.

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On the opening drive of the second half, Dalton completed all four of his attempts for 53 yards, setting up a Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal to make it 17-7.

It was a nice All-star game bounce back for the Red Rifle. In his last Pro-Bowl appearance in 2015, he completed just nine of 20 passes for 69 yards in Team Carter’s 32-28 loss to Team Irvin.

Yesterday was, however, not Dalton’s best Pro-Bowl outing. He made the AFC roster after leading the Bengals to a playoff berth in his rookie campaign of 2011. In that Pro Bowl, he threw for 99 yards and hit Brandon Marshall (then with the Dolphins) for a pair of touchdowns. In his three Pro Bowls, Dalton has a 96.4 overall passer rating.

Dalton’s only blemish of the night came when he was intercepted by Richard Sherman on a deep route intended for the Broncos’ Emmanuel Sanders with 7:57 left in the first half. The play looked similar to Sherman’s first professional interception, which was off Dalton in 2011 when both were rookies, in an eventual Bengals’ win in Seattle.

The Rest of The Pack

Defensively for the Bengals, it was the tandem of Atkins and Dunlap. The duo has combined for 76.5 sacks in the last five seasons. On Sunday, however, only Atkins was able to get to the quarterback. Geno tallied a sack of Washington’s Kirk Cousins with 10:29 left in the game. The sack helped stop a promising NFC drive that resulted in a field goal.

Five minutes later, Atkins and reigning Super-Bowl MVP Von Miller split a sack of Cousins. Once again halting an encouraging drive and forcing a Matt Prater field goal.

Atkins also sacked Cousins in the Bengals-Redskins 27-27 tie in London last October.

Atkins led the AFC side with 1.5 sacks, while Minnesota’s Everson Griffen led all Pro-Bowlers with three.

Jan 29, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; AFC defense lineman Geno Atkins (97) sacks NFC quarterback Kirk Cousins of the Washington Redskins (8) during the second half at Citrus Bowl.AFC defeated the NFC 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Carlos Dunlap did not crack the final box score. But he was in on the AFC’s goal-line stand in the first quarter that dropped rookie Ezekiel Elliot inches away from the end zone on fourth down.

From a competitive standpoint, this year’s Pro Bowl was head and shoulders better than in recent memory. The 33 total points scored was the lowest since 1998, when 2017 Hall-of-Fame hopeful Ty Law took home MVP honors in a 23-10 AFC victory.

"“That was by far the most I’ve seen everybody with as high of intensity as that,” Andrew Whitworth said following the game, per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com."

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Sunday was Whitworth’s second straight Pro-Bowl appearance. He was part of Team Irvin’s winning club last season. Whitworth played the majority of the game at right tackle. The three-time All-star split time with Tennessee’s Taylor Lewan, who made his first Pro Bowl after being taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

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