Pressure. It's going to happen. What matters isn't so much how a team limits an opposing defense's pressure during a pass play; it's how the quarterback reacts to an inevitability when faced with it. It can be equal parts of a poison that lends to a quarterback's mistakes, or an avenue for someone to thrive.
Consider that most pressure is generated from blitzes that reduces the number in coverage, opening single-man schemes which dramatically benefits a receiver like A.J. Green, as well as guys like Jermaine Gresham, Mohamed Sanu and Andrew Hawkins. Once a quarterback deflects the mental projection of being slammed with pressure building around him, the opportunities to make a big play increases exponentially.
According to Pro Football Focus, who accumulates statistics based on pressure, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton doesn't handle it very well.
Now Dalton is one of the least pressured quarterbacks in the NFL, with only 89 drops being ticked as a pressure -- in other words Peyton Manning is the only quarterback in the NFL that experiences a smaller percentage of drop-backs in relation to total pass plays that leads to pressure. Blaming the offensive line isn't an accurate scapegoat, as least through PFF's perspectives.
Yet during said pressures, according to PFF, Dalton's completion rate drops to 58.2 percent with 8.77 percent of his attempts (under pressure) leading to interceptions. And perhaps more frustratingly, when Dalton is under pressure, scrambling around with his anxious legs, he's only thrown-away 3.51 percent of his passes. This has led to frustrating sighs this year when Dalton takes a quarterback sack in the redzone, looking to make a big play when perhaps he should write it off as a "live for another day" ending. But hey, he's a sophomore in the NFL. We'll file that under things he'll eventually learn.
The Oakland Raiders come into Cincinnati with a league-worst 11 quarterback sacks this weekend, though have an impressive number of hits on the quarterback (52) and middle-of-the-road quarterback hurries (75). Most pressure this year in Oakland has been generated from guys like LaMarr Houston (team-leading 16 QB hurries), linebacker Phillip Wheeler (team-leading 10 QB hits) and defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy (team-leading 3.0 and 2.5 QB sacks respectively).
How will the Bengals protect Dalton this weekend?
Based on those numbers Cincinnati's offensive line will limit the pressure induced on Dalton while the Oakland Raiders, with a decent number of total pressures this season, will have theirs. However if Dalton stands firm in the pocket, rejecting the forecasted conclusions of said pressure, standing tall looking for an open receiver, one could conclude that Dalton could have a strong outing this weekend against a defense that hasn't recorded a sack in two straight.