Andy Dalton Justified in Firing Back at J.J. Watt

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Nov 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass in the first half against the Houston Texans at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Watt‘s playful jab at Andy Dalton has quickly become the center of headlines across the country.

Why?

Maybe it’s because the 8-1 Bengals have proven that the “Bengals can’t win in prime time” narrative is irrelevant, even if they lost to the Texans last night (last night’s loss was the first time in four prime time matchups that Cincinnati came out without a win).

What else is there to talk about? The Bengals beat themselves up, but everyone knows that. The exchange between Watt and Dalton, however, captured fans’ attention.

Let’s not forget that Dalton wouldn’t have responded the way that he did if it weren’t for a reporter trying to stir up attention, paraphrasing what Watt said in a way that would get Dalton to say something interesting. And to the reporter’s credit, it worked.

Here’s what ESPN’s Bengals beat reporter Coley Harvey had to say on the matter:

"Though he said he still hasn’t seen the interview for himself, Dalton told ESPN’s Bob Holtzman on Tuesday, “There’s no feud between me and J.J. I wish him the best the rest of the season.”“I didn’t intend to create any controversy,” Dalton said, adding that he just answered a question based on how the comments were portrayed by a reporter."

Even if Dalton didn’t respond the way he did, however, J.J. Watt had no right at taking that shot at Dalton.

Watt, manned up against Eric Winston (the Bengals’ backup right tackle) provided the Texans two tackles (one sack) and forced a holding penalty.

And even if he did have the right, Watt’s comment just comes off as egotistical. After hearing him articulate so clearly that he wanted to make Andy look like a Red Ryder B.B. gun, you can’t help but imagine Watt standing in front of a mirror practicing the way he phrases his jab. It’s pretty ridiculous.

Anyways, let’s get back to football.

The Bengals hardly sent any double-teams Watt’s way (if any at all), and limited him to a single sack on the night. J.J. Watt is a generational talent, to the point that Jon Gruden sung his name game long on last night’s broadcast, even though he wasn’t making plays.

There were multiple occurrences in which Gruden said something along these lines:

“Third-and-long. If there were ever a time for J.J. Watt to make a play, the time is now.”

Watt never made a play after Gruden mentioned his name before the play started; I mean he was only involved in two tackles anyways.

Watt, a player who most people consider as a serious MVP candidate, recorded one sack while manned up against a backup right tackle. The Bengals dared Watt to make a play–and he was only able to make one. And even the one sack Watt recorded had hardly any impact on the game, because the Bengals gained a first down on the ensuing play.

This isn’t the only time that the Bengals were able to contain Watt without sending double-teams in his direction. In last season’s matchup, Watt didn’t record a single sack against the Bengals, who went on to beat the Texans 22-13. Andre Smith got the best of Watt, who had very little to say after the game.

Watt may have gotten the best of the Bengals in the past (particularly during the playoffs), but his production against Cincinnati has been next to nothing in his two most recent matchups with the Bengals.

The bottom line is this: J.J. Watt had no reason to take that shot at Dalton, because he wasn’t even the best player on his own defense last night.

Watt had a subpar performance, and Dalton had a subpar performance. The difference in Monday night’s matchup was that Watt’s supporting cast made plays, while Dalton’s did not.

Watt’s teammates combined to sack Dalton twice, force a fumble and intercept a pass. On the other hand, Dalton’s pass-catchers dropped several passes (Tyler Eifert alone dropped three), ran bad routes and fumbled the ball on what could have been a game-winning drive.

Next: Texans Hand Bengals First Loss in MNF Upset

If Jonathan Joseph was the one that was taking shots at Dalton, Joseph’s shots would be justified. He’s had Dalton’s number since the day the two players first faced off, picking off a Dalton pass in each of the past four matchups between these two teams.

But it wasn’t Joseph.

It was Watt, who was held in check by a backup right tackle.

Adam Jones summed it up best after the Bengals’ Monday night loss:

They f—— won a game,” Jones said. “We’re 8-1. How many games have they won? Thank God for them.”

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