At one point during the season the vultures and other corpse-eating carnivores circled around Cincinnati's offense on third down, salivating at a hearty meal with flopping pigskins and head-lowering shame. Often hovering around dead-last on third downs early during the season, the Bengals were forced to rely on the big improvised plays from Andrew Hawkins or A.J. Green's lethal acceleration and speed. And despite their horrifying third down conversions, the Bengals hovered around the top-ten in scoring offense with middle-of-the-road total yards.
Eventually they improved, finishing the season with a 34 percent third down conversion, which ranked No. 22 in the NFL -- worst among playoff teams.
Pro Football Focus released third down numbers this week, specifically how many were converted when a quarterback dropped back. According to their numbers, Dalton dropped back 167 times on third down and only converted 45 plays into first downs. According to his splits, Dalton's third down completion rate is 47.5 percent with a passer rating of 72.6.
On the surface that's appalling. But even they acknowledge that there's more to it. For example, passes dropped by targets, ineffective first and second downs, intense pass rush in the second half of the season (sacked 19 times on third downs) and a somewhat confusing nature to throw it deep on third and short -- though that could be a Dalton decision and not a designed play.
It's an interesting, though somewhat incomplete perspective that identifies the individual rather than the offense as a whole, so take it for what it is.