The Good, the Bad and The Ugly of Cincinnati’s Wild Card loss to San Diego

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The Ugly

Jan 5, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Bengals 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bad” Andy the Quarterback

There are two Andy Daltons’ 1) “Good” Andy and “Bad” Andy and I said it in my What to Look For article before the game:

[the Bengals] are ranked 25th in turnovers (30). 24 of those 30 turnovers (80%) have come via Andy Dalton (20 INTs, 4 Fumbles). The Bengals will sink and swim with Dalton and his ability to protect the ball. If the 20 interception Dalton shows up in the playoffs like he did the last 2 years (0 TDs, 4 INTs), the Bengals will have a quick stay in the playoffs again. If the 33 touchdown Dalton shows up, this could be your AFC Champion, and possibly, your Super Bowl Champion.”

Well, unfortunately for the Bengals, their fans and the city of Cincinnati, “Bad” Andy showed up for the 3rd year in a row (29-51, 56.8% comp, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 1 fumble lost, 14.2 QBR and 67.0 rating and 2 botched snaps).

The Bengals can overcome “Bad” Andy against non-playoff teams. They cannot overcome him in the playoffs. While Dalton did get his first playoff TD in his career, does it matter? Dalton now has 1 TD to 7 turnovers (6 INTs and 1 fumble lost) in 3 playoff games.

I don’t care how good your defense is, they cannot overcome those turnovers. Thanks to amazing stands by the defense, Dalton’s fumble and 1st interception lead only to 2 FGs (6pts). His 2nd INT did not lead to San Diego points, but likely cost the Bengals a FG or possibly a TD.

By my simple math, his turnovers alone cost the Benglas 9-13 points in a game that was within 10 points for most of the day. If you count his failed 3rd and 1 pass to Bernard, that is another 3-7 points.

I have supported Dalton a lot this year and you have to give him credit. He overtook a 2-14 team and has lead them to the playoffs in all 3 of his seasons. He has three 20+ TD seasons, a 4,000+ yard season and a 30-18 regular season.

As amazing as it has been that he has lead the team to 3 straight playoff appearances, it is equally amazing how brutal he has played once in the playoffs (56.9% comp, 1 TD, 6 INTs 1 fumble lost, a 5.84 YPA and a 56.2 rating).

A team cannot win with their quarterback playing that way. The sad part is, this Bengals team has the most talent on offense in the NFL – Green, Jones, Sanu, Hawkins, Bernard, BJGE, Eifert and Gresham – and a defense that is championship caliber.

How much longer can they give Dalton? At this point, nothing he does in the regular season matters or answers any questions. The Bengals have a Super Bowl caliber team except at the quarterback position.

I hate the term “Game Manager,” but if Dalton could just be a “Game Manager” and not hurt his team, this team could win a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Dalton has proven he cannot be a “Game Manager” nor can he be a “Game Changer” when the lights are brightest.

Tom Jackson of ESPN said it best when he said at some point, people inside the locker room and inside the organization will start losing trust in the quarter back and start to doubt him and when that happens, that is tough (if not impossible) to overcome.

Dalton has reached that level of distrust with the fans. I believe he may be getting there with his teammates.