Andy Dalton absolutely dominated the St. Louis Rams by catching them unprepared time and time again, leading the Bengals to an easy 31-7 victory and a 9-2 record. For highlights and detailed analysis of some of Dalton's most impressive plays, you can watch the following video:
Dalton went 20/27 for 233 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. He also ran for four yards on two carries and was not sacked at all, despite facing a defense that had 30 sacks coming into the game. Dalton's QB rating was 121.4 and his QBR was 93.6.
Dalton's immense success in this game was due to his quick pre-snap adjustments, his ability to confound safeties with his eyes and pump fakes, and his perfect timing. One example is the touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Eifert late in the second quarter. Brian Filipiak of insidethepylon.com joined us for this episode of The Dalton Dispatch and gave an amazing analysis of the play.
It all started with the initial formation:
"The Bengals go with an extra offensive lineman and initially align in an I formation with [tight end] Ryan Hewitt lined up at fullback in front of [running back Giovani] Bernard," Filipiak said. "The Bengals have Eifert positioned as an in-line tight end to the right of Dalton, and [wide receiver A.J.] Green as the lone wide receiver out to the left. The Rams counter this run heavy look with their base defense in a 4-3 alignment and walk a safety into the box over Eifert," Filipiak said.
Dalton then changed the play late, forcing the Rams' defense to defend the pass:
"With just a few seconds left on the play clock, Dalton sends Hewitt in motion, splitting him wide to the right. The Rams shift in the secondary and show a cover 3, or three deep look," Filipiak said.
Filipiak noted that this gave Dalton ample time:
"The Bengals use a seven-man pass protection, keeping Bernard in to block. Against only a four-man pass rush, the protection does a great job of building a wall to Dalton's left while also creating space and a throwing lane for the quarterback."
Filipiak then provided a diagram of the play and explained that:
"Cincinnati only has three receivers in route on the play, with Green running a deep fade, Hewitt on a short curl and Eifert working the seam up the right hashmark," he said. "With a clean pocket - and plenty of time - to work with, Dalton's initial three step drop is used to look off safety Rodney McLeod. Dalton eyes Green on the fade route throughout his drop and uses a pump fake to draw McLeod's attention away from his true target - which is Eifert running down the seam, splitting the underneath zone defenders and eventually McLeod and cornerback Marcus Roberson down field."
Filipiak credited Dalton's pump fake with creating the space for Eifert to score:
"After completing the pump fake, Dalton pivots to the right and delivers the pass to Eifert. The tight end snatches the ball at about the two-yard line and braces for contact. However, Roberson has too much ground to cover and McLeod - thanks in large part to Dalton's manipulation - is unable to impact the play. Eifert backs into the end zone unimpeded for his league-leading 12th receiving touchdown on the season."
In Week 13, the Bengals head to Cleveland for the second edition of the 2015 Battle of Ohio against the Browns. The Browns' pass defense dropped from eighth overall in 2014 to 25th this year. Dalton and the Cincinnati offense took advantage of Cleveland's depleted secondary in the first matchup, winning 31-10. But the Browns showed fight in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens Monday night and will look to take out the frustration of six straight losses on their intrastate rivals.
No change. While he was brilliant against St. Louis, Dalton looked just as good against Arizona the previous week. The difference in the outcome of this game was better protection from the offensive line and the defense's ability to suffocate the Rams' offense. Dalton's body language has never been better, which means the Bengals should be able to avoid a letdown in Cleveland.