Coming into Sunday’s wildcard matchup with the San Diego Chargers, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals had a lot of pressure riding on them. Having made the playoffs for the third straight season, the Bengals looked to avoid a third straight letdown. In order to not continue the trend of first-round exits, Dalton would have to turn in a fantastic performance against a “team of destiny,” as the Chargers call themselves.
As it turns out, Dalton did not have what it takes to finally win a playoff game. The Chargers’ defense was in his face all game long, but it was his poor decision-making overall that cost his team the win in the end. In this one, Dalton threw two crucial interceptions and fumbled twice — one of those fumbles was lost.
Dalton’s interceptions proved one thing above all else, and that is the fact that he continues to stay in the non-elite category among NFL quarterbacks. After his best season as a pro in terms of touchdowns, Dalton’s reputation still stood as a guy who will have some very, very bad games occasionally. He’s far too inconsistent, and today it showed.
The two interceptions by Dalton showed that he continues to stare down his receivers and decides where he is going with the ball no matter what at times. He doesn’t recognize shifts by the defense and simply throws the ball where he wanted to throw it all along, regardless of who may wind up with it. Sunday, the Chargers ended up with two big picks off of Dalton as he was a big part of the Bengals’ recent trend of getting ousted in the first round.
Another aspect of his game that is going to keep Dalton from being elite is his bizarre decisions to take off with the football at the wrong time, instead of either throwing it away or checking down to other options in the passing game. Dalton, many times on Sunday, would tuck the ball and run — both outside the tackles and inside. He either failed to recognize other receiving options or gave up on the play and tried far too soon to make something happen with his feet. On other occasions, Dalton held the ball far too long and took a sack when he really shouldn’t have had to.
For a third year in a row, Dalton got his Bengals into the playoffs in impressive fashion. For a third year in a row, Dalton proves why he is never going to be an elite quarterback with the decision-making issues he has been plagued with.