For the Cincinnati Bengals to win in 2017, they need Andy Dalton to step up in a big way. Instead, Dalton had arguably the worst game of his NFL career against the Baltimore Ravens to kick off the new season.
Highlighted by three first-half interceptions, Dalton had a disastrous performance that ensured the Bengals never had a real chance to beat Baltimore. The Bengals lost 20-0, embarrassing themselves in the first home opener since 2009. Dalton finished the game with five turnovers, four being interceptions to go with one fumble. This was the first time Cincinnati has been shutout in a season opener since 1979, and they’re the first NFL team to get shutout in a home opener since 2006.
To be fair to Dalton, the whole offense stunk, especially the offensive line. Cedric Ogbuehi had about as bad of a game as a left tackle can have, which helped lead to Dalton feeling the heat all game long.
After the game, head coach Marvin Lewis made sure to point out that the turnovers weren’t 100-percent Dalton’s fault.
“Two were off tipped balls, and on the other one (Brandon) LaFell gets grabbed, even though I don’t know if that has an effect on the play,” said Lewis. “Brandon got tackled when he made the break on the play. Those things, and the tipped balls, didn’t bounce our way. Sometimes they bounce our way, and sometimes they don’t. Theirs happened to bounce right to them.”
But even if Dalton was getting pressured on every pass, there’s no excuse for five turnovers and just 16-of-31 passing for 170 yards and no scores. That was good for a 28.4 passer rating, his worst since his 2.0 disaster against the Cleveland Browns in 2014.
“I have to make the throw, regardless of what’s going on. I have to play better, and everybody feels like they have to play better,” said Dalton after the game. “We have a chance to put this behind us quickly though. That’s our mindset.”
To his credit, Dalton owned up to his mistakes and shouldered the blame for this loss.
“We felt like we knew the looks we were getting. We didn’t make any plays, and it starts with me,” said Dalton. “It’s my fault; I didn’t play well and give us a chance to win.”
To this point in Dalton’s seven-year career, Dalton hadn’t posted a passer rating below 57.0 since 2014. He had a lot of up-and-down moments throughout his first four NFL seasons, but it appeared he’d learned to avoid the disaster games in recent years.
But in Week 1 of the 2017 season, Dalton had one of his worst losses since he was drafted by the Bengals. What will Dalton and the Bengals do with a full season of football left to be played?
Simple: Watch the film and move on to the next team, which thankfully comes just four days from now versus the Houston Texans.
“We’re going to look at it and see what we can do. We’ll see what started the spiral downward,” said Dalton.“We have a short week this week, and we have to get ready for Houston. So that will be our focus now. We don’t have time to think about this game. We’ll take from it what we need and move on to the short week.”
Dalton also knows that while this was ugly, there’s still plenty of football left to be played in 2017.
“We have 15 more games. This one game is not going to determine what happens this season,” said Dalton. “We can’t let it. If we get a win on Thursday night, we’re not talking about this anymore. Obviously you want to start the year fast, but we didn’t. This is where we’re at now. We have to put our head down and go to work.”
Let’s hope Dalton and the Bengals look a lot different in the next 15 games, or this is going to be a long season.