Don't tell anyone, but Dalton is playing well
OCT 14, 2013 5:38p ET
That’s Andy Dalton. We all want to know how he is going to turn out as an NFL quarterback and we want to know it yesterday. Or we believe that yesterday will be the final outcome.
The Bengals are going to go as far as their 25-year-old quarterback will take them but he’s still in the process of figuring out just how to get them there. It’s the middle of October. The Bengals are 4-2 and in first place in the AFC North by one game over Baltimore and Cleveland. Despite what some might have you believe, Dalton has played pretty well so far and is a big reason why the team is in the position it is.
Just like that little girl in the AT&T commercial, we want more, we want more.
So do Dalton, head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Dalton completed 26 of 40 passes for 337 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in Sunday’s 27-24 win in overtime at Buffalo. It was his first 300-yard game since Oct. 14 of last year at Cleveland. It was the first time he had thrown for at least three touchdowns in a game since last year’s game against Oakland on Nov. 25. His passer rating of 105.9 was his second of 105 or better this season and his highest since a he had a 109.0 in that win against the Raiders.
“I put enough pressure on myself,” said Dalton after the game. “I want to come out and I want to play the best I can every week. Everybody can say whatever they want but everybody in the organization knows what is really going on and so, for me, it was good to come out and play well. Not only so that there will hopefully be some positive stuff written about us but, just for this team, just to get a win. The most important thing is for us to win the game and we were able to do that today.”
For whatever reason, when people watch Dalton all they see are the negatives. There are a bunch of ‘Yeah, but…’ qualifiers associated with him.
Let’s take Sunday against the Bills as an example.
*Dalton had 337 yards passing… yeah, but a lot of those yards came after the catch on wide receiver screens and swing passes out of the backfield to Giovani Bernard.
*Dalton had three touchdown passes in the first three quarters… yeah, but what about his interception in the second quarter to Buffalo safety Jim Leonhard, who was wide open, that took the Bengals out of scoring position? And, what about the fourth quarter when he was just 4-of-8 passing while the Bengals had a chance to close out the game in regulation.
There are a lot more factors that go into being a good quarterback than just the raw stats. Dalton did a good job of getting the Bengals into the right play calls at the right time against Buffalo’s defense, setting up the 10 plays of 15-plus yards the offense had. Dalton’s six-yard scramble, including a juke on Buffalo rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, on third-and-five from the Buffalo 24 in the first quarter set up an 18-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green on the next play that erased Buffalo’s 7-3 lead.
You might not want to admit it, but Dalton does do a lot of good things.
“We’re asking for Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers right now, today. And he’s being compared to Matt Ryan, who has done well, and ( Joe) Flacco, who went through a progression,” said Lewis. “Those are all of the guys I watched on tape as we evaluated the quarterbacks we went back and watched their tape. He’s doing well. He’s directing our football team. We’re in a good spot and we have to keep going.
“Andy has his own timeline going on, and right now it’s pretty good. We have to keep going forward with it. We’re very supportive of him.”
There is a lot of room for improvement for Dalton. The interception by Leonhard was his second in as many weeks in which he made a poor decision on where to go with the ball and it took the Bengals out of scoring range. His touchdown pass to Green broke a drought of more than 140 minutes in between touchdown throws.
“He had a couple of head scratchers in the game. That interception was mainly one of them. Leonhard was standing right there, he never moved. He said he never saw him,” said Gruden, who for the second straight week had an animated conversation with his quarterback. “I saw (Leonhard) there; I don't know why (Dalton) didn't see him. I was curious. He lined up there and he never moved. It was right in the throwing lane obviously. Said he never saw him. I said, 'You need to look.'”
These are teaching moments. Dalton and the Bengals are learning on the go. And the Bengals are going to keep learning with Dalton leading them. At some point tomorrow will come. It’s just not here yet. Patience isn’t a big commodity these days but there has to
be a balance between that and the high expectations this team has.
There are a lot of moving parts with this offense, a lot of weapons to utilize from week to week, game plan to game plan.
“Overall, you have to grade his performance in a positive way,” said Gruden. “We still are going to coach him up on the negative ones. Few of the bad decisions, but I think he played well.”
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