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The mistaken narrative about the Bengals

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People are fingerpointing Andy Dalton as their source of frustration. Unfortunately, they are ignoring the disappointing Bengals defense.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go.

Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote:

I wonder now, given the incessant hiccups on the big stage, if the players don't have some of the same skepticism the rest of us do. I keep waiting for a big Dalton, next-level breakthrough. Now, I'm starting to believe it ain't coming. He is who he is. The great QBs elevate their teams. The others need their teams to elevate them. Anyone dispute which group Andy's in?

No.

Andy Dalton is a serviceable quarterback... labeling him as something more or less puts the reader/writer at fault. Victimizing themselves, yes?

Hilarious, right?

Why are we so incessant on labeling players, anyway? Great. Elite. Big-game Jayne. This happens every time the Bengals lose... We, who control the sports narrative (while being shocked that the sports narrative takes the directions it does), question Dalton after losses with these bullsh*t philosophical debates about a player's long-term definition.

By the way, where was Mohamed Sanu? After A.J. Green (11 receptions for 224 yards receiving), the Bengals wide receivers caught three combined passes: Sanu (two receptions, 16 yards), Greg Little (one catch, six yards) and Brandon Tate (0-0). In fact, no Bengals player, other than Green, caught more than three passes or contribute more than 23 yards receiving. If great quarterbacks are to elevate their teams, aren't supporting players supposed to... contribute?

The Bengals lost, so now we enter the rehabilitation phase of "questioning Dalton's entire body of work" -- well the body of work that doesn't dispute our talking points -- and examining the future, as if we're all stuck in some goofy Looper movie. Who cares if Dalton completed over 70 percent of his passes (they are high-percentage, quick throws anyway) against Pittsburgh, threw for 300 yards passing (that was all Green being awesome) and scored three touchdowns (one on the ground).

There was a shared turnover (with Jeremy Hill) and that set the stage for a complete fourth quarter collapse. He takes the share of that blame. This comes a week after Dalton throws three interceptions in the first half, but has the "gutty" label attached after a stable second half. Dalton sucked last week, but he had flu-like conditions. He was good against Pittsburgh, but sucked more this week than last week against Tampa Bay? Is that the current narrative? I only ask because ultimately, I don't care... and I won't spend my time blaming him this week. I blamed him for Indianapolis and Cleveland.

"Will he ever be great" questions generally reach conclusions without any specific meaning, save for the generic traffic-generating discussions that resolve into simplistic symbolism. Dalton has done things that few quarterbacks have done in NFL history. While that credit has been attached to him, it's not necessarily because of him. Cincinnati's defense has as much to do with the Bengals successes since '11... but that doesn't minimize what Dalton has done either. Yet the defense receives a pass. They still receive a pass, because Vontaze Burfict is out. Would the defense be just as awful with Burfict? Probably not. But they're not re-playing the games after Burfict returns either.

Unfortunately, Dalton takes significant blame for a Bengals defense that's the clear front-runner in the "biggest disappointment" award for 2014. This is a defense that allowed nearly 550 yards and over 40 points to the Steelers. It's a defense that's allowed over 500 yards of offense in three games this season. How historically awful is that? Cincinnati's defense hadn't allowed ANY 500 yards games since the Browns 51-45 loss in '07.

Look... Dalton isn't great, he's serviceable. Read this line in a postgame article at Bengals.com:

Hill cited offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s mantra that the offense has to do whatever it can to make things easier for Dalton and he took the blame.

If you think that your quarterback is "great", this mantra doesn't exist. Did/do great quarterbacks require this level of coddling? No. Dalton will have his great games and he'll have his fair share of awful games. Most of his production will fall somewhere in the middle. He's a productive quarterback who requires help from his supporting cast.

Help that never showed.

Where was Mohamed Sanu's dropped pass in the fourth quarter or his illegal block that put Cincinnati into a second-and-16 situation following THE FUMBLE? Where was Leon Hall on the 94-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant? Cedric Peerman's fumble on the fake punt? Or calling the fake punt at all? Where was the pass rush? Is it alright that the Bengals defense NEVER steps up in clutch games at the end of the season or during the postseason? How many times are we going to target Jermaine Gresham on third down, only to drop the football, fumble the football or run a route that falls over five yards shy of the first down?

And the beat goes on.

If you're still wondering, in his fourth season, if Dalton will be great... you probably already have your answer. Now it's a matter of accepting it.