Bengals’ Andy Dalton Picking Up Where He Left Off

Oct 23, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Andy Dalton doesn’t have to prove he’s got the talent to play quarterback in the NFL. His numbers don’t lie. It’s time for the doubters to believe.

Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of a comeback. After a mind-blowing start to the 2015 season, Dalton went down in Week 14. An injury to his thumb meant the end to his spectacular play. But, this year has been a source of revenge so far. Although the Bengals are turning their season around, Dalton has been steady. The Red Rifle is picking up where he ended against the Steelers.

It would be easy to look at the Bengals’ 3-4 record and dismiss the team as having peaked. Five straight trips to the postseason is a lot for any team. But, for those who aren’t fans of Cincinnati, it’s convenient to heap them with the has-beens of the league.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are struggling also. What’s the difference? Dalton’s skills aren’t taking a hit. When the Bengals need a jolt to keep them going, The Ginger has been there in the middle of the huddle leading his team. It isn’t through rah-rah speeches. Dalton is letting his gameplay set the tone for what Cincinnati needs to do. 

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He’s Back

When Dalton went down against Pittsburgh, the season took a turn. The emotional level of the team took a hit. Backup AJ McCarron did a decent job of plugging the dam. But, the leadership and playing ability of Dalton was missing.

Andy’s final numbers of 2015 were more than impressive. They were astounding. After spending time with Tom House and his staff, Dalton is now back on track. So far, The Rifle is completing passes at a 67.5 clip. Before his season ended early, Dalton had completed 66.1 percent of his throws. The season is at the halfway point and Dalton is averaging 295 yards per game. At the pace, what he’s done in the past will be eclipsed.

The Bengals’ signal-caller is on pace for at least 4,720 yards and a completion percentage of 68.4. Along with the frequent flyer yards, he’s on pace to have the lowest interception rate of his career.

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With the Bengals looking bad against decent teams, Dalton has gotten very little love. In the NFL, it’s all about the W’s. If the Bengals were once again flirting with being undefeated, the attention would be nonstop. 

One of the recipients of Dalton’s stat attack, A.J. Green, spoke about his quarterback via The Sporting News.

"“I think he just picked up where he left off last year before he got hurt. He’s playing at an MVP level.”"

A long winning streak would get the analysts and football purists to notice his numbers again.

Leadership Is Key

Before The Rifle was looked upon as a leader in the huddle, that mantle belonged to tackle Andrew Whitworth. The departure of Hue Jackson to the Browns caused a slight hiccup with the offense. But, the leadership qualities Jackson helped groom are still there. Dalton is a quiet winner who knows when to speak up. He’s starting to understand how to motivate his teammates.

Against the Browns, Jeremy Hill’s blazing 74-yard TD run was the result of Andy’s leadership in the huddle. Giovani Bernard had scored in the red zone and Dalton teased Hill about not having one. Hill’s body language showed his pride was at stake.

“I’ll get mine,” Hill calmly told his quarterback.

A few moments later, Jeremy was in the end zone. Dalton rushed downfield to congratulate his teammate.

“You were right,” Andy said while patting Hill’s helmet. “You got yours.”

Next: Keys For A Win Over Washington

There’s a fine line between being a leader and trying to motivate. Dalton has matured into the answer at quarterback that the Bengals have been searching for. Now, it’s time to get the playoff monkey some bananas.