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Andy Dalton shines again in Bengals’ loss

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Despite the Bengals’ struggles, Andy Dalton has continued to shine and shows he’s capable of playing at the same level we saw him reach in 2015.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

A common theme this season has been Andy Dalton playing well in a losing effort.

As bad as the Bengals’ offense has been at times, you cannot fault Dalton for the losses. There are plenty of quarterbacks in the NFL who regularly put up good numbers while their teams lose (cough...Blake Bortles...cough).

Dalton has continued to play very well and shown he’s capable of playing at the same level we saw him reach in 2015. That continued in New England with a red-hot start, no pun intended.

Dalton opened the game completing his first 10 passes and 13 of 14 while leading the Bengals to leads of 7-3 in the first half and 14-10 in the third quarter.

Dalton finished the game 21-of-31 passing with 254 yards and one score with 17 yards rushing and another touchdown on two carries. But it was all for not in yet another frustrating loss that could have been very different if not for a host of missed plays and bad mistakes at inopportune times.

“When you have chances you want to make them and you want to make the plays when you’re out there and we didn't make enough of them today” Dalton said after the game. “That’s the reason we lost. “

Among those were a failed goal-line possession in the first half that saw Cincinnati stopped on four straight plays within the New England 6-yard line, three of which from within the 1.

The Bengals did get the ball back and score on the ensuing possession to take a 7-3 lead. After a Patriots score, Dalton led the Bengals right back down the field in the second half to retake the lead.

The Bengals then forced a Patriots punt and held the ball deep in their own territory with a 14-10 lead in the second half. However, a bad holding call on Cedric Ogbuehi backed Cincinnati up to their own goal line.

The very next play saw Dalton sacked for a safety off a blitz up the middle, and that effectively was the ballgame for this one. New England would roll off a 25-3 run and win the game 35-17.

That helped lead to Ogbuehi being benched, and Dalton knows the second-year tackle has to just keep his head down and keep working to be the best player he can become.

“For him, he’s got to focus on being the best player that he can be and that’s all you can think about. Watch the film – be your hardest critic and find a way to get better,” Dalton said. “That’s all that you can do and that’s all that anyone should do at this point when they’re watching film.”

That second quarter missed opportunity on the goal line and third quarter safety were the two plays Dalton admitted really cost Cincinnati a chance to win.

“We had the safety and then they went down and scored right after that. It shouldn't have been that way. We should have had I guess, 21 [points] at that point,” Dalton said. “We were down there on the 1-yard line and weren’t able to get it in, so yeah, then they took advantage of the safety and then they scored afterward. We weren’t able to do much after that so, they just took advantage of the opportunity.”

Even though Dalton and the Bengals took the loss, it was still good to see the franchise quarterback continue to play at the high caliber level he’s proven to be capable of. This marked the fifth time this season that Dalton has completed at least 67 percent of his passes, and it’s the fourth game in which he hasn’t committed a turnover.

Dalton has thrown just two picks this season, the fewest he’s ever thrown through the first six games of any of his previous five seasons. He finished this game with a 103.4 passer rating, marking the fourth time he’s topped the 100 mark this season. Dalton has now hit that mark in 12 of the past 18 games in which he’s started and finished.

As bad as the offense has been, that’s a pretty impressive line for Dalton. He’s easily been one of the brightest spots (if not, the brightest spot) in this season thus far.