clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Andy Dalton came through when Bengals needed him most against Seahawks

The Bengals are 5-0 in large part because Andy Dalton has not only improved dramatically, but continues to come through when his team needs him most.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton continues to leave no doubt that he's a different quarterback now in his fifth season as a pro.

But after a red-hot start through the Bengals' first four games, he still had his skeptics, and for understandable reasons. He lit up the Raiders, Chargers, Ravens and Chiefs in his first four games. Those teams were a combined 6-13 as Sunday ended--not long after the Bengals' and Dalton's biggest test of the season against the Seahawks.

While this appears to be a Seahawks team still finding themselves, they played arguably their best game of the season against the Bengals. Their defense finished with season-highs in tackles for loss (seven), sacks (four) and forced two turnovers. Their offense ran for a season-high 200 yards, while Russell Wilson threw for 213 yards and one score.

As for Dalton, he had some bad moments, but overall, he was great against a stellar Seattle defense as he rallied his team from 17 points down to a 27-24 win. Dalton finished the game 30-for-44 passing with two touchdowns while rushing for another to give him three scores against a defense that hadn't allowed one player to score more than twice on them this season.

What's made Dalton so much better this year is the level of control he finally feels he has on the offense.

"I feel like I’ve got complete control of this offense," Dalton said after the win. "Hue (Jackson) has done an unbelievable job with the way he’s calling plays, the way he’s getting guys in space, getting guys the ball. For us, it’s huge. We feel like we put ourselves in a good position. We’ve worked really hard to get here. We have to keep playing at this level."

Dalton also did this against a Seattle pass defense that came into this game ranked fifth in passing yards per game allowed (190) and tied for second in passing touchdowns allowed (three). This was also the first time the Seahawks forced one or fewer turnovers against a quarterback who threw 40-plus times and completed at least 60-percent of his passes against them since Week 3 in 2014 vs Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Dalton chucked it 44 times against Seattle and came away with just one interception and no fumbles while completing 68-percent of his passes.

Before this season, Dalton was rarely ever capable of leading the Bengals to a win when he's thrown so many passes. Coming into this game, the Bengals were just 1-11-1 when Dalton attempted 42-plus passes (including playoffs). In such games, Dalton had thrown 23 interceptions versus just 14 touchdowns.

Marvin Lewis admitted as much after the win while also praising his quarterback for having an infectious level of confidence that gave his team the belief they could win this game.

"Andy’s had that poise," Lewis said. "He’s had rare occasions where he let one bad play lead to another. To me, that’s what makes Andy Dalton tick. It’s rare for him to have one bad play lead to another. I think the confidence that everybody around him has — and the fact that they are getting to the right spots and providing him the opportunity to deliver them the football — it makes a huge impression for those of you who are watching.

"But for him, he hasn’t changed. The other guys have raised their level around him. So when things don’t quite go their way, they are mentally tough enough (to do the things to) let Andy do his thing. Whether it’s the protection, or the defense making a stop, or the receiver being in the right spot making the contested catches — it makes a huge difference. If a quarterback doesn’t have that, then it all comes down on him."

Perhaps the biggest improvement Dalton has made this year is distributing the ball more evenly versus locking on to solely A.J. Green. Against Seattle, Dalton completed at least five passes to five different receivers with Green leading the way with eight on 12 targets.

Dalton is also showing the courage to call his own number and run right up the gut of a defense if he thinks he can get a first down or even touchdown. Against the Ravens last year, Dalton called his own number on 4th-and-Goal from the 2-yard line and ran right at the teeth of Baltimore's defensive line through Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata for the score.

He made a similar call in this Sunday, though it was a five-yard score on a QB sneak on 2nd-and-5 with 3:38 left in the game to cut Seattle's lead to 24-17. As much as Michael Bennett and the rest of the Seahawks defense had hit him in this game, Dalton wasn't afraid to go right at them when his team needed it most.

"Yeah, there was a good look," Dalton said. "Everything was wide open on the inside, and it gave me an opportunity to just take it myself. It was a great play design and it worked. It was one of those things where you get those looks, you practice them throughout the week, and we got it and we executed it exactly how we wanted to."

This is simply the best Dalton has ever looked in every aspect of his game. Accuracy, poise and decision-making are all traits he's clearly improved upon. It may also be just enough to make this Bengals team a true Super Bowl contender.

For now, it's made them 5-0, the favorites to win the AFC North and a very dangerous team in the conference.