Look at the picture above and tell me what you see. If you say, “Andy Dalton getting sacked,” then congratulations — you’re not a moron. But what you should really pay attention to is the two Cincinnati Bengals offensive linemen standing by watching as their signal-caller — their leader — tries to single-handedly fight off two pass-rushers by himself against the defending Super Bowl champions. Yet everyone talked about how the Bengals’ Week 10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was “another terrible performance by Dalton.”
That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard and it’s an ignorant comment because it couldn’t be further from the truth. It wasn’t long ago that everyone was singing Dalton’s praises when he completed a three-game stretch that included over 1,000 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and a trio of wins. Guess how many times he was sacked during those three contests. Five. That’s 1.6 times per game. Through the course of a season, any NFL quarterback would be happy with that average.
Over the last two games — both losses — Dalton has over 600 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. The difference is he was sacked a total of 10 times (five each) in those two contests. He was constantly under pressure, yet overcame the dreadful play by his offensive line to rally his team into overtime on both occasions. And you’ll never guess what happened in both games that doomed Cincinnati in the extra period. Ding ding ding! He was sacked.
Now some folks might say it’s his fault, which would also be ignorant because if a quarterback gets rid of the ball in less than four seconds, then he’s off the hook from a timing standpoint. All of the critical sacks in the overtime losses came in less than two seconds. For an NFL offensive line protecting a quarterback on a division-leading team, that’s absurd.
Dalton is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and those who really know the game will agree with that. The Bengals’ offensive line will be the team’s downfall because this is a talented squad with the ability to make a deep playoff run. But Cincy will have to keep Dalton upright for that to happen.