I snapped this one out early today as a means to end this season that was in the end a roller coaster trip that ended up in an ugly crash.
This was one in which Andy Dalton and Jay Gruden went down together like the Hindenburg in Lakehurst, NJ. Dalton with a 2 INT, 1 Fumble loss, 67.0 passer rating game was simply disgusting in the second half. When it was money time, Dalton was out of change. But it wasn't just on Dalton. What are we doing at the end of the game down 10 points and only running one play every 30 seconds? We went from the 12 to midfield and burnt the clock down from 8 minutes to 4:30 before turning it over on downs? And why are we not shortening our routes and drops when the D is blitzing? Why does Dalton run laterally in the pocket instead of stepping up and getting rid of it? These are questions that recurred throughout the past few seasons and reared their heads again today. These are questions that the offensive coordinator is supposed to answer. Let's hope that teams that look at Gruden and Zimmer take the former. Let's get someone else who puts a little more fire into guys on game day and who can get his offense to run more than 2 plays a minute when losing by two scores with less than 6 minutes to play.
Did the Chargers out gameplan us? It was on purpose that their elite QB only threw 16 passes. They continuously got 5+ yards on 1st down running the ball and took our D out of its ability to bring pressure on 2nd and 3rd-and-longs. In the second half they turned up the pressure on Dalton and took away Green. Dalton time after time was not able to find the single open guy. On the INTs he missed open guys as he was pressured. Yes, Green did drop the long ball near the game's end that could have given us a last gasp of breath, but that was a bit underthrown. And it seemed that once again Green had been lulled to sleep by a lack of inclusion in the game.
Our STs fared well for the most part. Our D did well. The game announcers noted that San Diego would have been held under 300 total yards if not for the late 58 yard TD run. Our RBs did well: 113 yards and 4.5 YPA. For the third straight playoff appearance with Andy and Jay, we simply had no O.
Before moving onto the Conclusions, I have two last notes. First, this season was NOT a success. No playoff win for a team that is talking Super Bowl is a failure... gross, utter, undeniable. Not only that but Marv Lewis is now 0-5 in the playoffs and thus defines himself as a big game failure as well. Overall and including playoffs, Marv is 90-90-1. Average. Second (and this was noted by Dan Marino in post game), this team needs a veteran QB next year to "come in and put some pressure on Dalton" who just isn't meeting the final challenges from season to season and even on a week-to-week basis. He improved but is not ready for prime time. The team needs to come out early in the off-season and announce that there will be a QB competition. Let him know that his job is in jeopardy. I noted prior that I'm for extending Dalton, and I have flip flopped on that. Do offer him that extension, but make it much shorter and lower. Before I guessed 5 years, $50 mil. After today I'm thinking that we need to drop that offer substantially in length and average annual amount. He has not earned the big money folks, so let's spend it on the Michael Johnsons and Anthony Collinses who have.
5 Prior Conclusions
1. Character & Consistency: The team fought to the end, and the D held SD to two FGs after two bad Dalton 2nd half INTs to at least give us a final chance (that we blew anyway). Some personnel (Dalton and Gruden) lack consistency, but everyone showed a lot of character in 2013.
2. Dalton & Gruden: Read the lead in. Not a lot more to say about two guys who have accounted for 7, 13 and 10 points in their 3 playoff appearances. If you haven't figured it out CJ'ers, that sucks pretty bad. And for the one CJ'er who noted a couple of weeks back that he was "offended" on basic discussion of Dalton's performance, you need to stick to watching your kids' Pee-Wee games. This is big time football that is played for W's. Andy can sing all his spiritual songs he wants, but he's getting no freebies here when he lays another big game egg.
3. TO Differential: We discussed it. (-4) today lost the game for us. All of them came in the last 32 minutes of the game too.
4. Injuries: They got a few key players back, and it made a big difference. Melvin Ingram had sacks, and INT, and was all over the field. They ran the ball much better with their regular OTs in the game. We missed Newman some as Kirkpatrick blew a coverage that cost us a TD. We hope that all our guys are ready to go in spring.
5. Coaching: I can't complain about a lot except that the Offensive passing routes were not well planned and adjusted for what SD was doing, the O was flat in the second half, the hurry up O was pathetic, and Dalton did not seem ready for what the Chargers brought. SD had a basic game plan to create 2nd-and-short on O (to take away our blitz ability) and to bring a lot of pressure on Dalton on passing downs in crunch time. That's all it takes evidently right now to beat the Bengals.
5 New Conclusions
1. Personnel: I think this game does change things slightly. I want to see more power on the OL, and I think that does mean that we need a more dynamic Center. We need to put more pressure on Dalton to pick up his game, and the clock starts now for developing a better plan than Josh Johnson, John Skelton, Zac Robinson, Greg McElroy, and some NAIA QB from a small KY college. Maybe I'd take a big thumper ILB to pair with Burfict if one falls in the draft. I'd definitely look for an early CB in the draft. We have UFA decisions to make about the OL (e.g., Collins, Pollak) and DL (MJ93). We know that our problems are 95% on O however, and that needs to be the strong off-season focus.
2. Post-Season: We know that we can get there, but we're doing something wrong once there. I'm open to suggestions, but the offense did not look prepared.
3. The Curse of Bo Jackson's Hip Lives
4. The Curse of Mike Brown's Ownership Lives
5. What are you Guys Doing Next Weekend?
This one stung, folks, so don't kid yourselves. Our worst fears about Dalton came true. It was the Peter Principle of QBs that hit where he got to the next level and folded like a poorly placed House of Cards. I'd imagine that he feels pretty badly right now. Let's watch the post-game and see if Andy Dalton is man enough to say these words: "I played poorly in the second half, and it cost us the game." If he can't make that realization and admit it (like the game announcers and studio analysts were saying before the game was even over), then hopes for him to improve are shallow. The first step is admitting your problem, and I'll be watching to see if Andy Dalton is a big enough man to take ownership of his failure today.
And this from Mike Florio posted an hour after the game ended:
In a league where teams are divided between those that have franchise quarterbacks and those that are looking for a franchise quarterback, the time for wondering about Dalton arguably has ended. Based on his performance in three straight playoff losses, he’s not a franchise quarterback.
Franchise quarterbacks don’t throw two interceptions and lose a fumble and get beat by 17 points at home on a cold day in January against a West Coast team. (Source: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/05/is-it-time-for-then-bengals-to-move-on-from-dalton/)