For Cincinnati Bengals fans, their hopes for the first playoff win in 24 years came to an abrupt halt on Sunday. Andy Dalton made a tackle after throwing an interception on the first drive that ended up with his throwing hand smashing against Stephon Tuitt‘s knee. As he left for the locker room, most knew his day was over, but that was just the start.
When Dalton emerged from the tunnel, he was sporting a black cast, which made every Bengals fan fear for the worst. On Monday, we got news that it wasn’t as bad, but still bad, that his fracture did not require surgery, just healing. Healing takes time, and well time that the Bengals can’t afford in a playoff race, or can they?
AJ McCarron, is a second year backup to Andy Dalton, after he was drafted by the Bengals. Now, he has been forced to the forefront of one of the longest playoff win-less streaks in the NFL. The real question though is, should we be worried that he can’t lead this team?
Many Bengals fans have been calling for Dalton’s head during the off-season, and for McCarron to have a chance at the starting role. Now, all you can hear is, oh no McCarron is starting. AJ McCarron is a quarterback out of University of Alabama, the same quarterback that led Alabama to three BCS Championships, was a 2 time SEC Champion, a Maxwell Award winner, and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner. Yes, NCAA success doesn’t always mean NFL success. So again I ask, should we really be all that worried?
I know on Sunday he threw two interceptions, one of which was really on him. He went on to throw two touchdowns, one of which was a beautiful pass to A.J. Green. He didn’t have Tyler Eifert, who was out with a concussion after the first drive. He had very few reps with the first team during practice all season. If you don’t expect mistakes in his first game, then you haven’t watched the NFL very often.
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McCarron showed a lot of promise though, 22 completions on 32 attempts, two touchdowns, 280 yards passing. Something most teams would take from a starting quarterback, in fact, just ask Brown’s fans. The defense didn’t do much either with injuries to George Iloka, Vontaze Burfict, and Adam Jones, who (Jones) missed the complete game.
They did give up 26 points, and although 7 of those came from one turnover in Bengals territory, they could have stopped the Steelers for a field goal or force a turnover. A pick six didn’t help this Bengals team either but could have been overcome. So take 14 points away and 19 points were a result of the defense playing poorly against both the pass and their red zone defense was slightly above terrible, unlike the first match up.
AJ McCarron has the potential to lead this team to the Bengals fifth straight playoff appearance, and could clinch the AFC North with a winnable game in San Francisco and the Steelers hosting the Denver Broncos. So don’t count the Bengals out, this is a 53 man roster, and when one leader goes down, another should emerge.