Entering their game against the San Diego Chargers this past Sunday, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hadn’t thrown an interception in three games while throwing for 639 yards and nine touchdowns. More importantly, Dalton had consistently been hitting his receivers, showing great poise in the pocket and making excellent decisions. In Week 13, however, Dalton not only snapped his three-game streak of not throwing an interception, but he also reverted to playing with inconsistency from snap to snap.
Critically, against the Chargers, the Bengals put the ball in the hands of Dalton early on and asked him to move the ball down the field repeatedly. Dalton threw 10 passes on the first drive alone, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham, but his very first pass on his team’s second drive was intercepted. Dalton dropped back in the pocket before quickly throwing the ball in the direction of AJ Green running a slant. However, the young quarterback failed to read the coverage as Demorrio Williams dropped into the passing lane before catching the ball and running it back for a touchdown. Dalton forced the throw on second and 10 early in the second quarter.
It was the kind of throw that the quarterback wasn’t making during his recent three game stretch, nor could he blame the wide receiver or pass protection. In fact, both the Bengals’ receivers and pass protection showed up yesterday. Dalton seemingly always had time to throw from a clean pocket when he dropped back and was sacked only once for no loss. The loss of Mohamed Sanu proved irrelevant as Green continued his impressive play, while Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones also contributed. Tight end Gresham did have an inconsistent day with a fumble after a reception and a touchdown, but for the most part the Bengals’ weapons were as consistent as they have been.
Only three of Dalton’s passes were dropped on the day, with one of those coming from Brian Leonard. That said, one of those drops, off the hands of Jones, resulted in Dalton’s second interception. Jones snatched at a perfectly placed pass running a crossing route over the middle before Corey Lynch snatched the deflected ball out of the air. Dalton couldn’t be faulted for the play at all, but on various other plays he missed receivers and looked anxious in the pocket despite having excellent protection all day. Most notably, Dalton overthrew Green in the endzone when he was wide open, something he has made a habit of doing all too often this year.
When it came down to winning the game in the fourth quarter, Dalton did step up and run in a close touchdown, but it was far from a convincing performance from the quarterback. Dalton threw 39 passes in this game and the Bengals hadn’t won a game all season when he had thrown more than 31.