AJ McCarron was thrust into the middle of a playoff race on Sunday afternoon when Andy Dalton fractured his thumb and had to leave the Bengals’ game against the Steelers.
McCarron wasn’t able to pull out a victory that would have clinched the AFC North title as the Steelers rolled to a 33-20 win that bolstered their own playoff hopes. McCarron was 22-of-32 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first extended regular season action and said after the game that he’s excited about the chance to start at least one game while the Bengals figure out Dalton’s status.
The second-year pro also showed some confidence by referencing Tom Brady’s entry into the Patriots lineup back in 2001 after a Mo Lewis hit put Drew Bledsoe on the sideline and put Brady at the helm of the New England offense in his second year.
“You gotta embrace it,” McCarron said. “I love it. You gotta love pressure moments. That’s what makes you great. That’s when the great ones really shine. I guess Tom Brady was in the same situation when he had the opportunity so I gotta make the most of it, do my job each week, know we have an unbelievable defense, don’t turn the ball over and we have a chance to win.”
Brady went on to win the first of his four Super Bowl titles that year, something that’s certainly a possibility for the Bengals as they’re going to the playoffs barring a total collapse in the final three weeks of the season. It remains to be seen if McCarron will be playing all of those games, but the Bengals can only hope that there’s reason to keep making that comparison should the backup remain the man the rest of the way.