As a rookie last year, Andy Dalton stepped into a starting quarterback role on a club that was in utter chaos. All that he did was take control of the situation and lead the team to an improbable Wild Card berth. And when you look at 2012 and the way that Cam Newton has been struggling so far, it's easy to to be grateful for the Bengals' current quarterback status.
However, last week's home loss and offensive struggles against a then 1-3 team raised some questions for me. Namely that Dalton has yet to beat a quality opponent and/or one with a solid defense. In his 22 career games (including the playoff game versus the Texans last season), Dalton is 12-10 as a starter for the Bengals. He has not beaten one playoff team to date and has only beaten two teams that had winning records when he played them (Bills and Titans, both in 2011). Not exactly earth-shattering statistics.
Additionally, Dalton hasn't really beaten a team with a quality defense in those 22 career games. Of the 12 wins he's accrued, the only notable defenses that he's had a victory against were two against the 2011 Browns squad (finished with a No.9 overall ranking, but only played in six total quarters in those two games), as well as the 2011 Seahawks and Cardinals units.
Perhaps the five most devastating losses that Dalton has endured are those against the Baltimore Ravens (three) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (two). For all of those losses, Dalton has had five touchdowns against six interceptions with an average quarterback rating of 66.2. The Bengals have been outscored 158-77 in those five key divisional games under Dalton.
This past Sunday was another example of Dalton succumbing to a solid NFL defense. The Miami Dolphins brought in the No.1 rush defense to Paul Brown Stadium and had the Bengals offense off balance all afternoon. It wasn't all on Dalton though, as the running game gave him very little to work off of and he had to put the game on his right shoulder again. Though it worked the three weeks prior, it didn't have the same effect this week against a No.9 overall defense.
Really, the only signature wins that Dalton has to his credit are those against the 2011 Bills and Titans, and this year's victories against the Browns and Redskins. It's not exactly a list of conquering world-beaters. Questions are beginning to emerge about Dalton's ability to win a big game, as well as if he will be able to defeat a good defense at some point. While fans will rush to Dalton's defense about these questions, the stats and facts are there and it's alarming.
Even though it was one game that got away from them on Sunday, it was an expensive hiccup. The Bengals are now staring at two important consecutive games against divisional foes in the Browns and Steelers before their bye week. The game against the Dolphins was one that they needed under their belt--especially with the ones they have coming down the pike and the murderous streak of games they have after the bye. It's in these next eleven games that Dalton will need to shake the image of not being able to beat quality teams and their defenses if Cincinnati is to make a playoff push for the second consecutive year.