Andy Dalton and the Bengals lit up the Bills, winning 34-21 in Buffalo. Cincinnati was highly efficient against the Bills' vaunted defense, not committing a turnover and going 4 for 4 in the redzone. The key to both the passing game and rushing game was Dalton's pre-snap adjustments. For highlights and analysis of Dalton's sharp performance, watch the following video:
Dalton was 22/33 for 243 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, good for a QB rating of 118.6 and a passer rating of 87.4. He rushed three times for -2 yards. And while he fumbled once (the Bengals recovered), Dalton was not sacked.
While some afflicted with histrionic personality disorder attempt to discredit Dalton's numbers due to the talent around him, a closer look reveals that the fifth-year quarterback has been the engine that has driven the Bengals' relentless offensive train. This was made abundantly clear throughout the game in Buffalo.
Fans may remember Dalton's third quarter touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Eifert, where Dalton recognized that the only player within Eifert's vicinity was safety Bacarri Rambo. Dalton lofted a perfect pass to Eifert, who has a six inch advantage over Rambo, in the endzone, which put the Bengals up 31-14.
Dalton's contributions on running plays may not receive enough recognition. So let's take a look at Dalton's role in Giovani Bernard's 17-yard rushing touchdown.
It was 3rd and 1 with 10:25 left in the second quarter. The score was tied 7-7. Initially, receiver Marvin Jones was lined up near the line of scrimmage.
Dalton changed the play, which led to Jones lining up a little off the line of scrimmage. This is significant, because, Jones and Dalton converted a 3rd and 4 in the first quarter using a similar formation. On that play, cornerback Stephon Gilmore gave Jones a cushion and was then burned by Jones who easily picked up the first down (see video above).
Because of that earlier third down conversion, cornerback Ronald Darby was determined to play Jones tight.
With Jones occupying Darby, the corner was in no position to wrap up Bernard as he burst through the line. Bernard would score easily, putting the Bengals up 14-7.
When the Bengals return from their bye week, they will face the currently 4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers. Coming into the season, the Steelers were expected to be an offensive juggernaut. However, Pittsburgh's pass rush has also been impressive. The Steelers are tied with the Bengals for sixth in the league in sacks with 17. And while Pittsburgh's offense had sputtered since quarterback Michael Vick took over for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers may have found new life in third year quarterback Landry Jones, who led Pittsburgh to 19 second-half points (including two touchdowns to Martavis Bryant in his first game this year) in defeating the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, it's possible Roethlisberger could return as early as next week. If he is ready to go against the Bengals by Week 8, Dalton and company will probably have to score at least 30 points to keep up with a Steelers offense that is slowly getting its pieces back.
No change. Dalton's performance against a Bills defense that was expected to be one of the very best was quite impressive. But, at this point, we have come to expect such excellence from Cincinnati's signal caller. It seems that each game this season Dalton has put on display a different aspect to his game. And the theme of the Buffalo game was efficiency. While the Bills actually had more first downs (22 to the Bengals' 21) and more total yards (368 to the Bengals' 355) and the time of possession was split at an even 50/50 (each team held the ball for precisely 30 minutes), Dalton and the Bengals' offense avoided the kinds of mistakes that set an offense back; they were not sacked, did not turn over the ball and they were perfect in the redzone. Cincinnati's playmakers are taking turns stepping up and Dalton is firmly in control of the offense.