We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game between two heated rivals and big plays predictably came at a premium. Both teams struggled with consistency in the run game and had their best receiver shut down by the opposition, so quarterback play was at the forefront of the contest’s outcome.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton battled through poor weather and officiating, a hostile environment, and even a slow start from himself to get the Bengals back in position to potentially tie the game as the two-minute warning hit the clock. It was by no means his best day as a pro, but the sixth-year signal-caller took the team on his back with 54 pass attempts and didn’t turn the ball over.
Other areas of Dalton’s value:
Nine Receivers with Catches: Even though A.J. Green was bracketed by the Steelers defense, Dalton distributed the ball to a bunch of different players. Tyler Boyd was the best of the wideouts, hauling in six passes for 78 yards, but the use of so many weapons was also impressive considering Tyler Eifert is still out of the lineup.
Changing the Game Plan: Ken Zampese and Dalton had a plan to utilize Green, but had to make in-game changes. Dalton found creases in the middle of the field and then took what Pittsburgh was giving them by using Giovani Bernard en route to a comeback.
Drops and lack of a run game: Aside from all of the above-mentioned issues the Bengals faced on the day, the lack of help Dalton received was startling. Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 17 carries and just 39 yards, while receiving options dropped a whopping eight passes on the day. The Bengals had a total of 18 dropped passes in all of 2015, per FOX Sports.
25-Yard Pitch-and-Catch to Gio Bernard: Down 24-9 and things looking extremely bleak with just under seven minutes to play, the Bengals took over on a drive. Dalton found Bernard often to make it a one-possession game. The security blanket had three of his nine catches on the drive, including the 25-yard scamper into the end zone.
29-Yard pass to Tyler Boyd: Late in the third quarter, the Bengals’ offense put themselves in quite a hole. Back-to-back penalties put Cincinnati in a 1st-and-25 situation after struggling to move the ball with consistency to that point. Dalton threw a dart across the middle to Boyd, who converted a huge first down. It helped lead to a Mike Nugent field goal.
Who gets your nod for the Bengals’ MVP against the Steelers in Week 2?