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Week 3 Broncos vs Bengals: The Dalton Dispatch

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Denver’s vaunted defense exposed issues for Andy Dalton and the offense. Now, it’s time to fix what’s broken.

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Home openers aren’t supposed to be disheartening. But the Bengals’ 29-17 loss to the Broncos on Sunday has fans asking a lot of questions, many of them about the new offensive coordinator. Why didn’t Ken Zampese play more aggressively in the first half? And why did he abandon the run in the second half? But perhaps the worst outcome of a very confusing day, one in which Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (23/35, 312 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 132.1 QB rating) looked like a Pro Bowler, is that quarterback Andy Dalton’s biggest flaws were exposed. To see how Zampese held Dalton back, and also his best throw of the game, watch the following video:

The Data

Dalton was 21/31 for 206 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception and a QB rating of 72.8. He added 40 yards on the ground on 6 carries, and he was sacked 4 times for 17 yards.

Deconstructing Dalton

After throwing for 366 yards in each of his first two games, Dalton was held to just 63 yards passing on 8 attempts in the first half. And 84 of Dalton’s passing yards came after the Broncos went up 29-17 lead with 4:32 left in the game. In other words, the Broncos’ suffocating secondary came as advertised, holding the Bengals’ #1 passing offense in check.

However, Dalton’s rough outing isn’t a major cause for concern. After all, Denver held Cam Newton and Andrew Luck to fewer yards and lower completion percentages and QB ratings in Week 1 and Week 2 respectively. And both quarterbacks bounced back with solid outings the following weeks.

The bigger question that John Sheeran asks in the video above is: do the Bengals have an offensive identity? He argues that Zampese tried to do too many things on offense against the Broncos. And his over reliance on heavy formations resulted in Cincinnati losing offensive versatility, which restricts Dalton’s freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage, perhaps his greatest strength.

The good news is that Dalton has more than five years of experience under his belt, and has worked with Zampese his entire career. So the two should be able to work out these issues in the coming weeks.

On Deck

The Bengals get a chance to redeem themselves on Thursday, when they welcome the Miami Dolphins to Paul Brown Stadium. The Dolphins have struggled mightily this year, just barely winning their first game in Week 3 against a Cleveland Browns team that featured rookie Cody Kessler and converted wide receiver Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. The previous week they were on the wrong end of Jimmy Garoppolo’s breakout game (he threw touchdowns on his first three drives). In other words, you can expect Andy Dalton to have his first multiple touchdown game of the season, and for A.J. Green to get back on track.

Dalton’s Direction

Downward. While the play calling was questionable, Dalton is partly to blame for his inability to take advantage of Jeremy Hill’s best game of the season. He also missed on a potential big play to Green, when he had Aqib Talib beat early in the 3rd quarter, and he threw the game-sealing interception with 4:18 left in the game. Dalton has seen better days for sure. Fortunately, the return of Tyler Eifert will do wonders for his touchdown-interception ratio. And, as mentioned, the Broncos’ defense is making the best quarterbacks look average.