After being labelled as a quarterback who could not perform as anything other than average at the NFL level throughout his two-plus year career, it appeared that Andy Dalton took a big step forward from Weeks 6 through 8 this season. Over these three weeks, Dalton led the Cincinnati Bengals to a 3-0 record while completing 69-of-104 passes for 1034 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception.
This streak of success, albeit somewhat brief, appeared like it could mark a turning point in Dalton’s career as he shown a consistency throwing the ball like never before. Every time the ball left his hands, it looked destined to be right on target — whether it was a bomb downfield or a five-yard pass through a tight window — showing the type of consistent play that had marred his progress in the public eye.
On Thursday night, Dalton seemed to take a step back in a 22-20 loss against the Miami Dolphins. He completed 32-of-53 passes for 338 passing yards, 0 touchdowns and three interceptions, which looks like a somewhat decent night without the turnovers.
Unfortunately, these interceptions were a part of the game, and they hamstrung the Bengals to a big degree against the Dolphins. Throughout the game, it appeared that every time the team looked potent getting the ball downfield and making life difficult on Miami, and the Bengals would be brought back to trying to get back into scoring position.
In fact, an argument could be made that without these turnovers, Cincinnati would have won the game handily instead of having to require rookie running back Giovani Bernard to put on an electrifying performance just to force overtime.
In overtime, Dalton’s poor effort was exacerbated when he was sacked in what turned out to be a game-ending safety. While some will fault the offensive line for this failure, it is ultimately up to the quarterback to see oncoming pressure and let go of the football before being sacked in the end zone. This rings true at any time of a football game, and further shows that Dalton simply did not possess the decision-making skills he showed earlier.
At the end of the day, it would be easy it sit back and take this one game with a grain of salt. However, the problem with this is that the Bengals do not want to be just any team — they want to win a Super Bowl. To do this, they will need a quarterback that is consistent and reliable, which Dalton has not shown he’s capable of during his career.