After the Cincinnati Bengals lost against the Houston Texans, I did what every other Bengals football fan probably did. I tried not to dwell and began watching the other playoff games. With Wild Card weekend over, once more I find myself analyzing the Bengals' loss.
I have had a concern in the back of my mind for about five weeks now, one I did not want to believe with Cincinnati doing so well in the second half of the season.
It’s about Andy Dalton.
It wasn’t RG3’s injury. It was how he was playing before he was injured.
During the first two offensive drives for the Redskins, their star rookie quarterback was unstoppable.
As I watched RG3 in the pocket, taking the snap, I saw the quarterback bouncing up and down, shifting around, light-footed. I saw his vision stay downfield, looking for a receiver. I saw the fire in his eyes, and his poise as he led the offense.
I saw the quarterback that I want to see in Andy Dalton.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Dalton. I want him to succeed. After all, Dalton is the quarterback of the team I root for on Sundays. However, sometimes football is not about whether you just “like the guy.”
During the beginning of the year, I saw an impressive Andy Dalton lead the offense to touchdown after touchdown. The Bengals quickly churned out a three-game win streak, despite a slow start in Baltimore.
Even in their next few losses, the offense wasn’t fully to blame. Dalton continued to put up big numbers, even though turnovers were ever-present as well.
Then something happened. The defense got injured players back and started performing like everyone knew they could. The turnovers decreased, and we were winning football games.
But we were not winning because of Andy Dalton.
With a solid Cincinnati defense to back him up, he began to lose the impressive stats with which he started the year. Dalton was relying on the defense to get the job done, as the Bengals approached a group of must-win games to fight back into the playoffs.
Dalton visibly lost confidence in the pocket. His accuracy began to dwindle, and the Bengals were just barely putting up enough points to win games kept close by the strong defense.
While he was getting the football out too quickly in the beginning of the season, he started holding onto the football too long during the final stretch.
He was freezing in the pocket.
I’m not going to pretend I know what was going on in Dalton’s mind as he faced those must-win games. But I can say what I saw on my television screen.
A lack of confidence and a lack of leadership during times when we most needed those vital traits in our quarterback.
Dalton has shown flashes of brilliance in his short career in the NFL. For him to truly be the quarterback the Bengals want, he will need to get his confidence back. He will need to be able to face the pressure that every good quarterback has to handle during a crucial game.
Then, and only then, do I think we will see the Andy Dalton we all believe he can be.
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