During Cincinnati's first two preseason games this year, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton participated in 11 first-team offensive possessions that resulted with three interceptions, five punts (three of which were three-and-out), a missed field goal, touchdown and a converted chip-shot field goal. Even considering that both games (at the visitor's homefield) were Dalton's first as a professional it wasn't encouraging even to the most patient fan, expecting nothing more than systematic growth throughout the regular season this year. And the most impatient fans, most of whom likened Cincinnati's preseason start to that of Nicholas Cage's acting, were contemplating if Cincinnati would even win a game.
Fortunately the idea of growth still applies; a philosophy we've held firmly with since the teams drafted quarterback Andy Dalton. Remember. Nine starters from last year's opening game roster are gone -- six of whom haven't signed on with new teams yet.
And that growth was apparent on Thursday, albeit against a defensively challenged Carolina Panthers squad that presented little resistance against Cincinnati's rushing offense. All told Cincinnati equaled many of their preseason numbers in just over half of their the possessions against the Panthers.
"We needed this for our confidence," said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton after the game. "We always knew what we were capable of. It’s great to go out and perform well. So, hopefully we can just keep getting better and better."
That, my friends, is improvement. That's growth. No. Carolina isn't the defense of the New York Jets, who didn't allow a first down through Cincinnati's first five possessions last Friday, assisted by a driving rain storm that caused receivers to drop passes and Andy Dalton to be inaccurate. It was against Carolina, who like the Bengals, are in the middle of their own rebuilding project. Yet Cincinnati's easily protected the quarterback while opening massive gaps in the defense for Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott.
"We came out with an attitude tonight," said Andrew Whitworth following Cincinnati's win. "It was the same guys that have lined up the last two weeks but we came out with the right attitude and mind set tonight. That really falls upon some of the leaders that have been there. We have talked a lot about that, and we have to continue to come out and lead these young guys. We have also talked to the young guys about that attitude and they came out and showed it today. I’m very proud of them."
Whereas people shouldn't put stock into the team's losses, it would be inadvisable to do the same in their preseason wins. Though when the Bengals offense, who scored only 10 points in 11 possessions before Thursday, produced three touchdowns and a field goal during six possessions against Carolina, it's an encouraging development that this team is showing growth. And right now, that's the point.