The Cincinnati Bengals came into the 2017 season looking to rebound from last year’s 6-9-1 campaign. Despite the struggles of 2016, plenty of fans had high hopes for this season, and those hopes shouldn’t fade after one game.
Still, the first game was very surprising for one reason: Andy Dalton’s meltdown.
Now, to the common fan who doesn’t consistently watch the Bengals, they won’t think it’s surprising that Dalton threw four interceptions and had a fumble Week 1. Most fans of the Bengals know that simply isn’t typical Dalton anymore.
Last season, Dalton only threw eight interceptions with only one game with multiple interceptions. He only had one multiple interception game in 2015 as well, so when people peg him as this turnover machine, they are basing it on first impressions or lazy analysis.
In fact, the last time Dalton had even a three interception game, you have to go all the way back to 2014 when he did it in the Thursday Night game in Week 10 against the Browns, and then in Week 13 against the Buccaneers. The Bengals lost to the Browns 24-3, but He did overcome his meltdown against the Buccaneers to lead the Bengals to a 14-13 win.
After that game, Dalton seemed to put an end to his meltdowns. In 2014, he ended the season with 17 interceptions. The following two seasons, he had a combined 15 interceptions.
Now, a lot of things played into this poor performance from Dalton. One of the first being the lack of protection from his offensive line. Without guys like Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, Dalton was left to run for his life. Cedric Ogbuehi had a tough task in his first start as a left tackle against Terrell Suggs, but he didn’t even have a moral victory against Suggs.
The interior offensive line didn’t do him any favors either. Dalton rarely had the ability to step up in the pocket. Even so, Dalton should have known this kind of pressure was possible with a new group and planned on getting the ball out earlier sometimes.
Although it was clear the Ravens were daring anyone but A.J. Green to beat them, no one was up for the challenge. Getting a guy like John Ross out there could help, but it will still be his NFL debut, so putting our hopes in him to be the savior may not be the best idea.
Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese also didn’t do Dalton any favors by being very unimaginative with his play calling. The Bengals have the weapons to spread a defense like Baltimore out, but they just didn’t do it often enough. He also could’ve given his quarterback more opportunities on early downs to get some easy completions and get back into a rhythm.
Still, a lot of the blame falls on Dalton. He started staring down receivers allowing the opportunistic defense to take advantage. He also got gun shy on a few throws instead opting to try and get out of the pocket, not to mention he cost the team points in the red zone, which is an absolute killer to morale and momentum.
As fans, I think we all expected the offensive line to be bad and Dalton would have to speed up his process a bit. I don’t think any of us saw the return of his meltdowns. The one reassuring thing fans can take away is that you have to go all the way back to 2014 for the last time Dalton had a similar meltdown.
Dalton knows how to move on from these kinds of games.