Bengals fans should be encouraged by what they saw out of rookie quarterback Andy Dalton on Sunday; especially the pronounced leadership qualities firing up the troops on the sidelines and in the huddle. For example midway through the fourth quarter, Andy Dalton scrambled out of the pocket and rolled out to his right on third-and-six. Down by two points, it would have been a huge conversion to sustain a possession that only needed a field goal to win. Dalton's window closed before reaching the first down marker and he tumbled a yard shy of the first down. Since the play was near Cincinnati's sidelines, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden had a few words for Dalton, likely explaining that sliding is actually still considering manly, provided you're a quarterback.
The Bengals called a timeout (which ended up actually not being a timeout) before deciding to go for it on fourth down. As Dalton returned to the huddle, he fired off a few words to pump his guys (not unlike Joe Cane's presnap speech) before calling the play. Now if Andy Dalton's fake on the naked bootleg to the right worked, the defensive end would follow the line giving Dalton plenty of protection. Additionally the misdirection benefits receiver A.J. Green, whose route ran underneath the offensive line, popping out in the right flats. It didn't work. Defensive end Robert Ayers crashed upfield, not buying the fake and forcing Dalton to dump the pass before Green's route developed.
It signified two things. While Dalton's progression is impressive, exponentially detailed with his leadership qualities, this offense isn't without their to-do list. Most notably the team's inability to convert third down situations. Against the Denver Broncos, the Bengals offense failed to convert their first ten third down opportunities and going 0-2 on fourth down.
+ Third-And-One (1st Quarter, 3:57): With 3:57 remaining in the first quarter, the Bengals are firmly established at their own 49-yard line and one yard needed to convert their first third down opportunity of the afternoon. Against a Broncos defense that allowed 190 yards rushing against the Oakland Raiders in week one, it should be fairly easy for the Bengals to encourage their rush-first offensive lineman to block downhill.
Single-back formation, strong side to the left. Dalton hands off to Benson, who runs towards the left side of the offensive line. Von Miller initially caused problems, pushing tight end Jermaine Gresham into the backfield, forcing Benson to make his first cut three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Joe Mays sprinted around uninterrupted to the outside edge, hitting Benson three yards short of the first down marker. Bengals punt.
+ Third-And-One (2nd Quarter, 15:00): After the Bengals called a questionable timeout before the first play of the second quarter, the offense sets up on Denver's 48-yard line. So the first third-and-one situation didn't work, will they try to run again or play-action something deep?
Andy Dalton takes the snap and fakes the handoff up the middle. He looks downfield and aims for rookie wide receiver A.J. Green running a deep fade route towards the left sidelines. Even though Green beat the double coverage, the pass was just outside of Green's reach, forcing the Bengals to punt.
+ Third-And-One (2nd Quarter, 10:37): Bengals in double-tight formation with Jermaine Gresham and Colin Cochart side-by-side on the right. Benson, after receiving the handoff from Dalton, follows fullback Chris Pressley to the right. Both tight ends tried pushing their guys inward while Chris Pressley failed to recognize safety Brian Dawkins on the outside.
Benson was forced inside where both tight ends lost their defenders, stopping Benson as he reached the line of scrimmage and Dawkins completing the tackle. Bengals punt.
+ Third-And-Ten (2nd Quarter, 7:07): During the possession following Reggie Nelson's forced fumble, the Bengals are feeling the affects of a Clint Boling offensive holding midway through the second quarter. After a ten-yard gain, Dalton lines up in shotgun with ten yards to go on third down.
Flushed out of the pocket, Dalton rolls right and completes a desperation pass to running back Brian Leonard out of the backfield. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard covered Leonard well, forcing the completed pass to lose four yards on the play. Mike Nugent converted a 45-yard field goal on the following play to put points on the board.
+ Third-And-15 (3rd Quarter, 13:38): Dalton takes the shotgun snap the Bengals 15-yard line and 13:38 left in the third quarter. The rookie quarterback looked to his right, then over the middle in an effort to find something downfield. Dalton is forced to settle underneath on a double-clutched pass to Jordan Shipley for a limited five-yard gain. Bengals punt.
+ Third And Five (3rd Quarter, 9:03): Andy Dalton takes the shotgun snap from Denver's 20-yard line, down by 14 points. Jerome Simpson runs a hitch route about two yards short of the first down marker and drops the third down pass.Even had Simpson pulled in the pass, it's unlikely he would have converted the third down anyway. Mike Nugent converts the 37-yard field goal to reduce Cincinnati's deficit to 11 points.
+ Third And 10 (3rd Quarter, 1:32): By this point the Bengals were only down by five, thanks to a six-play touchdown drive on the previous possession that didn't feature a single third down (are we seeing trends?). With 1:32 left in the third quarter, the Bengals line up in shotgun from Denver's 14-yard line. Dalton lobs a screen pass over three Broncos players to Brian Leonard, catching the football at the line of scrimmage. Safety Rahim Moore tracked down Leonard, stopping him one yard shy of the first down.
+ Third And Eight (4th Quarter, 6:54): Down by two points and less than seven minutes remaining, the Bengals leave no one in the backfield for Andy Dalton, in shotgun with five receivers across the line of scrimmage (three on the right). Denver brings five with Andrew Whitworth defending against Von Miller and Joe Mays by himself; he eventually let them both go.
Dalton rushes the throw to his left, intended for Jerome Simpson. It was the right read (Simpson was wide open) and impressive throw with the pressure he was under; Simpson just dropped the pass. Bengals punt.
+ Third And Six (4th Quarter, 4:09): The Bengals line up on Denver's 41-yard line, down by two points and the game within their grasp. Dalton takes the snap and watches both Kyle Cook and Nate Livings struggle on their blocks, generating a dirty sight of Broncos players filling the quarterback's vision. Even though both defensive players fell down, Dalton rolled out right to avoid any additional pressure. Plenty of room towards the line of scrimmage, Dalton elects to run for the first down, falling one yard shy of the first down.
+ Fourth And One (4th Quarter, 3:09): On the following play, the Bengals rolled the dice on fourth down to keep the drive alive and perhaps, the win. Double-tight formation with A.J. Green wide left and Chris Pressley off-setting the I -- showing a very obvious rushing formation. Further showing their hand to run, Green motions and stops at Jermaine Gresham's left hip. Dalton fakes the hand off to Benson while Green runs behind the Bengals offensive linemen to flair out in the right flats. As Dalton turns around to rollout to his right, defensive end Robert Ayers, who didn't buy the fake, crashed down into Dalton. The quarterback desperately chucked the football into the ground for an incomplete pass. Turnover on downs.
+ The Third Down The Bengals Converted (4th Quarter, 1:10): Still only down by two points and just over a minute remaining in the game, the Bengals line up at their own 48-yard line. Three wide left and Simpson wide right with Brian Leonard flanking Dalton's left in shotgun. Feeling pressure that wasn't really there, Dalton rolls out right waiting for A.J. Green to position himself two yards past the first down marker near the left sidelines. He did and Dalton completed the four-yard pass to give the Bengals their first third down conversion of the afternoon with just over a minute left in the game.
+ Third And 19 (4th Quarter, 0:33): From the Bengals 43-yard line, just after Jonathan Wilhite posted a quarterback sack that dropped Dalton for a nine-yard loss, Dalton scrambles the offense back into formation. He receives the snap and fires a fastball to Jermaine Gresham, slightly behind the tight end that was deflected by linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
+ Fourth And 19 (4th Quarter, 0:30): Same situation, except one down later. This is the game. No timeouts remaining, Bengals on their own 43-yard line. Dalton, in shotgun with Leonard flanking to the left, rolls out to his right and fires down the right sidelines. The pass was slightly over and beyond Green's reach, falling incomplete and turning the ball over to the Broncos.