This was the Andy Dalton Bengals fans were waiting to see: the gunslinger of 2015 who didn’t just take what defenses gave him, but rather took what he wanted. And that’s what he did against the Miami Dolphins. For highlights and analysis of his performance (including a perfect throw to Brandon LaFell) watch the following video:
Dalton was 22/31 for 296 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions and a QB Rating of 111.8. His rushing total was -12 yards, due to a fumbled snap late in the third quarter. And Dalton was sacked once for 11 yards.
He wasn’t perfect, as he missed on some throws to A.J. Green and C.J. Uzomah, but against the Dolphins, Dalton showed a side he hadn’t shown in the first three games. He decided to throw aggressively to Green, and it ended well. Green caught 10 of 12 targets, including two deep passes (a 51 yarder in the first quarter and a 43 yarder in the third).
While the big plays by Green were perhaps the most memorable, John Sheeran argues in the video above that Dalton’s greatest throw of the night was to Brandon LaFell, a 23 yard play action pass on a levels concept near the end of the third quarter. Dalton rolls to his right as LaFell is gaining separation.
After he comes face to face with Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso, Dalton calmly gains his balance and sets his feet.
He then fires a perfect throw, a Sheer Strike™, into a small window, despite not being able to follow through due to the pressure.
While the throw to LaFell may have been the most impressive, Dalton was remarkably accurate throwing deep throughout last Thursday’s game, connecting on all four of his passes that traveled at least 20 yards downfield, per Pro Football Focus.
Next week, Dalton and the Bengals play the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, only about 20 miles from Fort Worth, Texas, where he played for Texas Christian University. The Cowboys’ pass defense is below average, allowing 264 yards per game, 7 touchdowns and grabbing 3 interceptions. But so far they’ve faced Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer and Blaine Gabbert. And they’ve only sacked opposing quarterbacks 5 times this season. So Dalton could have a rather smooth homecoming, if things go according to plan.
Upward. Make no mistake about it, this was Dalton’s most inspiring performance of 2016. Yes, the Week 1 game against the New York Jets was impressive and exhilarating. And yes redzone efficiency was still lacking against the Dolphins (Tyler Eifert can’t get back soon enough). But there were a number of encouraging signs from Dalton against Miami that deserve consideration.
While against New York he largely threw horizontally, Dalton attacked Miami’s secondary vertically. And he once again demonstrated his ability to make plays on the run, like on this gorgeous 51 yard pass to Green from the first quarter. Lastly, Dalton and Green appear to be on the same page again in part due to the playcalling of Zampese, who used Green in creative ways, like this drive route early in the 2nd quarter. If the Bengals want to get in the endzone more often, an attacking mentality from Dalton (and Green), like we saw last Thursday, will make that much more likely.