Along with falling short in the playoffs, Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton has always been criticized for his poor play in primetime games. But has the Red Rifle really been that bad under the bright lights of national television?
The last time we saw the Cincinnati Bengals on primetime, it ended with a 13-9 loss to the Texans at Paul Brown Stadium. The defeat dropped the Bengals to 0-2. It was also the second straight week the Bengals’ offense failed to score a touchdown.
Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton took a lot of the heat from the fans and from national pundits. He completed 20-of-35 passes for 224 yards with no turnovers and was blasted for not getting A.J. Green more involved. On the last meaningful offensive snap, Dalton overthrew fourth-string receiver Alex Erickson to seal a Houston victory.
One day later, the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. There were rumblings (as there always are) for backup quarterback AJ McCarron to go under center. Dalton’s record dropped to 5-12 in prime-time affairs.
The lowest of lows
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When anyone points out Dalton’s primetime shortcomings, it starts with an early-November night in 2014.
The Cleveland Browns came into PBS for a Thursday night matchup and dominated the Bengals 24-3. Dalton had by far the worst performance of his career (arguably until Week 1 of this season against Baltimore) – 10-for-33, 86 passing yards, three interceptions.
Dalton misfired on several throws, was sacked twice and threw a pass out of bounds after crossing the line of scrimmage by five yards.
(Have a blast re-living that night with the video below)
Almost immediately fans will wag a finger and point to that box score as the best example of Dalton’s stage fright.
But since then, prime-time games for the Bengals have usually featured “Good Andy.”
Here are the game logs from Dalton’s nine prime-time games since that loss to Cleveland.
Dec. 2014 vs. DEN (W 37-28): 17-25, 146 yards, 2 TD, INT, 93.1 passer rating
Dec. 2014 @ PIT (L 27-17): 27-38, 244 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 83.7 passer rating
Nov. 2015 vs. CLE (W 31-10): 21-27, 234 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 139.8 passer rating
Nov. 2015 vs. HOU (L 10-6): 22-38, 197 yards, 0 TD, INT, 61.0 passer rating
Nov. 2015 @ ARI (L 34-31): 22-39, 315 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 99.8 passer rating
Sept. 2016 vs. MIA (W 22-7): 22-31, 296 yards, TD, 0 INT, 111.8 passer rating
Nov. 2016 @ NYG (L 21-20): 16-29, 204 yards, TD, INT, 74.5 passer rating
Dec. 2016 @ HOU (L 12-10): 28-41, 268 yards, TD, INT, 84.2 passer rating
Sept. 2017 vs. HOU (L 13-9): 20-35, 224 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 76.4 passer rating
That averages out to a 64.4 completion percentage, 236.4 yards per game, 12 touchdowns against six picks and an 89.9 passer rating.
Not great, not terrible. Pretty standard numbers for a guy who teeters above and below the standard rank of a quarterback on a weekly basis.
Of course, the Bengals are 3-6 in those games. But they are primetime games for a reason. Usually, an 8:30 p.m. kick-off means a quality opponent. Of those nine teams listed above, seven of them made the playoffs (assuming Houston will not make the postseason this year) and five won their respective division that year.
Does Andy Dalton save his best outings for night games? No.
But does Dalton quiver into an inaccurate turnover-machine in primetime or is that Cleveland performance an unfortunate outlier?
It’s the latter, folks.