Bengals color commentator Dave Lapham is smarter than some people give him credit for. Most associate Lapham with cheering loudly during radio calls, but Lapham truly knows the team better than almost anyone in the city.
Just take a look at Lapham's comments on the Bengals' offensive letdowns in their three losses:
The common denominator is everyone's playing man-free. Underneath man coverage, pressing, with a free safety like a center fielder, and they haven't beaten it yet. They haven't done a good enough job consistently beating it yet. So, the blueprint is out. Everyone is going to probably try it, but will they have cornerbacks that can press like Joe Haden? Against A.J. Green, do they a matchup favorable to do that kind of thing? Not everybody does. So will it be as successful as it was for Cleveland, New England, I mean they've got Revis Island. Indianapolis did a good job with Vontae Davis. So it worked for these people, if you have a shutdown corner, that's probably what people will try to do. Mirror A.J. Green around and go from there.
Essentially, defenses are employing physical press coverage at the line of scrimmage. These corners aren't giving up much separation and are disrupting the Bengals quick-pass offense. Dalton averages 2.23 seconds from snap to throw, the quickest in the league this year. His throws are sometimes predetermined and his reads need to be made quickly. When no one is open in those first 2.5 seconds, Dalton makes bad decisions, bad throws, and takes sacks.
Here's Lapham on Dalton, specifically in the Browns game:
But, Andy Dalton has struggled with that. He didn't see the field real well, crossing routes that were available that he really didn't see that well. Mohamed Sanu, I thought, ran some good routes. He was available but Andy couldn't find him. Didn't have enough time, for whatever reasons, there were different reasons. I'm not saying Andy Dalton was the sole reason the Bengals lost the football game. He had a terrible day, and he admits he had a terrible day. He didn't see the field very well. But, he had a lot of help. Offensive line, defensive line, other than, say, special teams there's not a position group that you could say played well enough to win the football game. Offensive and defensive side of the field, nowhere near well enough to win.
There's a lot of blame to go around on offense. Of course, Dalton had a historically bad day as a passer. Marshall Newhouse had a terrible day as a pass protector and Russell Bodine also gave up a sack. Green and Sanu didn't seem to have their heads in the game. When they were open and the ball came to them, they dropped it. Other times, they were open and the ball sailed over their heads or out of bounds. Mostly, they just weren't open. The only thing the Bengals had going for them on offense was the ground game, but they abandoned it far too early. Jeremy Hill had 55 yards on 12 carries (4.58 yards/carry), but he fumbled and was benched for the rest of the first half.
Lastly, Lapham and Dan Hoard give some history lessons on other historically bad quarterback performances.
Hoard: Let's get back to Andy Dalton, it was the worst game of his career, without a question. A passer rating of 2.0. Let me point out just one thing. Johnny Unitas had a zero passer rating in his career, Terry Bradshaw had three. Otto Graham had a zero passer rating in the NFL Championship game one time, so it does happen. The key is bouncing back from it, how does Andy Dalton bounce back this week?
Lapham: I hope just like Ken Anderson did, when he had a 2.8 rating against the Seattle Seahawks in the opener, when we won the AFC Championship and went on to the Superbowl. In that game, Kenny had two interceptions, he got pulled from the football game. We're in bad shape, Turk Schonert comes in and leads us back to victory. The very next game, we're going to New York on the road, to play the Sack Exchange - Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau. Kenny Anderson rose to the occasion. Kenny Anderson compartmentalized that one game against the Seattle Seahawks. He came out and played well. We beat the New York Jets 31-30. Kenny Anderson went on to have a league MVP Season and take us to Superbowl XVI, we fell short obviously. I mean, you talk about a guy that rebounded. He had one of the worst games of his career in that season.
Going forward, Dalton has a chance to rebound in a major way this weekend. He will probably get right tackle Andre Smith back, but Gio Bernard is unlikely to play. Dalton will be playing in a dome this week, out of the cold and wind that may have affected him more negatively than Brian Hoyer.
The Saints best cornerback, Keenan Lewis, suffered a knee injury during last week's game that made his knee swell up to the size of a grapefruit. He missed some time, but returned to the game and played through it. If he doesn't miss this game, the Saints will be able to use the same blueprint that the Browns used last week. They'll press all their corners to the line of scrimmage, shadow Green with Lewis, and hope Patrick Robinson and Corey White can also hold their own against Sanu and Little. Lewis missed practice on Wednesday, so this is definitely something to keep an eye on. If Lewis can't play, Dalton may have a big bounce back week.