The Last Team Cowboys QB Andy Dalton Led to the Playoffs Was the 2017 Buffalo Bills

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Andy Dalton, Dallas Cowboys

All NFL eyes on Monday Night Football this week will be on Andy Dalton as he makes his first start for the Dallas Cowboys. Dalton was the insurance policy signed by Jerry Jones in the offseason when he didn’t know how Dak Prescott might react to being hit with the franchise tag.

With Prescott now injured and out for the season, it’s up to Dalton to lead the Cowboys to the NFL postseason. The last team that Dalton led to the playoffs was the 2017 Buffalo Bills – a neat trick for a guy who was quarterbacking the Cincinnati Bengals at the time.

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In a league in which teams sometimes cannot scrounge up one respectable quarterback, the Dallas Cowboys came into the 2020 season with two. Dak Prescott had made 69 consecutive starts to begin his career before going out with an injury during the Week 5 game against the New York Giants. Andy Dalton came on in relief to complete the 37-34 victory.

Dalton finished 9-for-11 for 111 yards, exhibiting the skill he generally showed over nine seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Dalton took the Bengals to the playoffs in his first five seasons, but the team was sub-.500 in each of his final four seasons. Owning the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, the Bengals selected LSU star Joe Burrow and released Dalton.

Dalton’s stats with the Bengals included a 70-61-2 record as a starter, 204 touchdown passes, and 31,705 yards. His passer rating was 87.6 for his career and under 80.0 for a season only once. While Dalton was 0-4 in postseason games, the team’s misery predated him by a lot. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1990.

The day Andy Dalton punched the Buffalo Bills’ playoff ticket

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Andy Dalton became a hero in Western New York on New Year’s Eve in 2017 by pulling out a late victory against the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals were 6-9 and out of the running, but the 9-6 Ravens needed a victory t wrap up a playoff berth.

Baltimore held a 27-24 lead with 1:23 left when Dalton threw what appeared to be a game-clinching interception. However, the Ravens were penalized on the play, giving Dalton the ball back with a fresh set of downs. An offensive penalty, two incompletions, and a short catch left Cincinnati in a fourth-and-12 situation just inside Baltimore territory when Dalton connected with Tyler Boyd for 49 yards and a touchdown.

The Bengals won, 31-27, but the outcome was more significant for the Buffalo Bills. Coupled with Buffalo’s victory over the Miami Dolphins moments earlier, Dalton’s touchdown pass put the Bills into the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

Buffalo Bills fans thanked Andy Dalton

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It’s a story frequently told, but Buffalo Bills fans were delirious over Andy Dalton pulling off the late heroics that ended their team’s 17-year playoff drought. One of them looked online and found the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, which was started by the quarterback and his wife to assist children and their families.

Other fans followed with donations, with most of them in increments of $17 in reference to the playoff streak. The donations reached $100,000 in less than two days. By the time it was over, 17,000 people had donated more than $450,000. When Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd set up his foundation to fund youth sports in Western Pennsylvania, fans poured in an additional $100,000.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.