NFL players of the week: Andy Dalton is more than a game manager

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati's quarterback is often criticized, but he transcended the game in week seven.

Prior to the weekend it would be safe to say that the offensive battle between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles would have given plenty of big offensive performances, but the end results was strangely lacking impact plays. Instead we saw Andy Dalton transcend his tag as a mediocre quarterback benefiting from A.J. Green and prove that he's developed as a franchise quarterback.

Passer of the week: Andy Dalton, 372 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 135.9 QB rating

There's not much more you could ask from Dalton. He found seven different receivers and completed over 70 percent of his passes en route to a Bengals' win. Early in the day it looked like he was having a classic Dalton affair, which involves feeding A.J. Green and not being asked to do much more. Unlike in past weeks Dalton found ways of involving his entire team and did so without a great deal of run support.

Prior to this season Dalton was sitting under 7.0 yards per attempt, which holds to be an important number where good quarterbacks become great ones. Even in a short yardage system it's a figure that shows the quarterback is either getting big plays or being accurate, but on Sunday he was both. Dalton averaged 10.9 yards per attempt, and did everything he could to hang with Matthew Stafford and a talented Lions' deep passing game.

Rusher of the week: Matt Forte, 91 yards, 3 TD

Other players gained more yards on Sunday, but Matt Forte made the biggest impact on a day where he was nearly able to lead the Chicago Bears to victory when Jay Cutler left due to injury.

Forte was extremely efficient in his running, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. The only issue in the shootout was that the Bears were forced to continue to throw because of both team's lack of defense. It's off-base to criticize offensive play calling, but there's something to be said about feeding the hot hand -- especially when Forte showed he had big play potential.

There's no telling how many yards Forte could have finished with if he was given more carries on Sunday. He can routinely bust big plays (like the 50 yard TD he had), and limiting these could have been a mistake.

Receiver of the week: Calvin Johnson, 9 receptions, 155 yards, 2 TD

This award is a dead heat between Johnson and Green, both of whom faced off on Sunday. In the end Johnson edges ahead based on his ability to continue to move chains and become the Lions' sole threat.

Cincinnati threw everything they could at Detroit's top receiver, routinely putting multiple defenders into coverage in an effort to stop him. The Bengals were able to come away with the win, but Sunday's game was a much-needed breakout for Johnson who has been held in check throughout the season.

Defender of the week: Chandler Jones, 11 tackles (8 solo), 2.0 sacks

Sunday's loss was very disappointing for the New England Patriots, but they have to be happy with what they saw from second-year defensive end Chandler Jones.

In the past we've seen Jones show a knack for rushing the passer, but in week seven he was also able to seal the edge in the run game -- showing an evolution to make him a complete defensive end. There wasn't much more the Patriots' defense could have done on Sunday as the offense struggled with New York's pressure, but this was a game to build on moving forward.

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