Because this was the veteran quarterback’s Super Bowl.
“I got water thrown on me and everything (in the locker room). Everybody was excited,” Dalton said after the game, via the team’s official website. “(Head coach) Mike (McCarthy) and a lot of the guys made it a big deal. “It feels good to come back to a place that I was for a long time and to win.”
Dalton, of course, was unceremoniously dumped by the Bengals in May after QB Joe Burrow became the No. 1 overall pick. Thus ended a decade-long reign under center which featured more than 34,000 passing yards, 200 touchdowns, 70 wins, and three Pro Bowl trips for the 2011 second-round draft pick.
Dalton quickly and serendipitously found a new home with the Cowboys, who, as luck would have it, were scheduled to play Cincinnati this season. And after Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury, the stars aligned for the 33-year-old to face his former team in enemy colors — in enemy territory.
Aided by a stunningly active defense that forced three turnovers and scored on a fumble-six, Dalton was accurate and poised amid the Week 14 demolishing. He completed 16-of-23 attempts for 185 yards, two TDs, and zero interceptions, finishing with a sterling 122.6 QB rating.
The numbers don’t blow you away, and the Cowboys are still 4-9, but Dalton simply had more oomph in his craft at Paul Brown Stadium. It was plainly obvious. His passes were zippier, his step bouncier. His team won because of him, not in spite of him.
The power of a #RevengeGame.
“This is definitely special for him. Make no bones about it, he wanted to win this game. More importantly, everybody in this locker room wanted to win it for him,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “If you can have seen the reaction when he came into the locker room after the game, I think it speaks volumes about the men in the locker room and with this win, it means for us for as a team because of where we are in our season but how important it was to get that win for Andy.”
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Dalton Reacts to Victory
True to character, Dalton didn’t celebrate by crowing on the field or subtweeting on social media. Many Bengals players and coaches remain close friends with the “Red Rifle,” who received a warm greeting upon returning to his old stomping grounds — and stomping all over his ex-mates.
“One of the coolest things was the sign that was up there (in the stadium) that said, ‘Thank you Andy and JJ for changing lives,’ Dalton said, per the team’s official website. “That’s what we tried to do while we were here and use our platform for good and show God’s love to a lot of people. I felt like that was a great reception to come back and feel that today.
“This one was special. Obviously, it’s a team that I played at for a long time. You want to do everything you can to win, and I thought our team played really well.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL