Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a very bad night in Thursday's loss to the Cleveland Browns. In a season where the league average for quarterbacks includes a 63 percent completion rate and 243 passing yards per game, Dalton turned in a historically poor performance. Before being benched in the fourth quarter of the Cincinnati Bengals' 24-3 defeat, Dalton had the following line:
- 10-of-33 for a 30.3 completion rate, the lowest of his career
- 86 yards
- Zero touchdowns and three interceptions, the second such game of his career
- Passer rating of 2.0, the worst rating of his career by 38.2 points.
- 2.61 yards per attempt, his worst mark by 0.71.
For Dalton, the effort bordered on the surreal. For a player throwing at least 30 passes, his 2.0 rating is the lowest since former New York Giants legend Scott Brunner had a 2.0 rating in 1983 against the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, only three other quarterbacks since 1960 have been worse in a game than Dalton; Gary Marangi, Pete Beathard and Norm Snead, according to STATS Inc.
Even in Bengals history, Dalton's performance stands out, quite a feat considering the Bengals penchant for drafting bad quarterbacks. Akili Smith never completed less than 34.8 percent in a game with more than 10 attempts, or had a rating of less than 27.4. David Klingler does make Dalton look marginally better. Klingler hit on just 4-of-17 passes once against the Oilers in 1993 for a 23.5 completion rate, but tripled Dalton's rating with his worst of 6.2.
Dalton took blame for the eye-opening loss afterwards, per Richard Skinner of USA Today Sports.
"It all starts with me," said Dalton, who had his season passer rating go from 88.3 entering the game down to 78.0 after it was over. "It all goes through the quarterback. I've got to play better to put our team in position to win."
While acknowledging the obvious of Dalton's awful showing, coach Marvin Lewis remained positive heading into the final seven weeks of the regular season:
"I'm concerned about the turnovers on offense," said Lewis. "He will break out of this tonight. Tonight, he had a bad day. He'll come out of this and be fine. We will get him out of this, but it was not a good night."
It didn't help that the Browns apparently knew everything the Bengals offense was doing. Cleveland linebacker Karlos Dansby told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal that the Browns were highly prepared for Cincinnati's plan.
"We put a lot of time in," Dansby said. "The schedule was hectic. Coach put a lot of pressure on us to handle it, to be professionals, and we handled it. We were dialed in. We knew exactly what they wanted to do, how they wanted to do it, when they wanted to do it. We're calling out screens. We're calling out run plays. We're calling out everything right there on the field."
"When he audibled, we knew exactly what he audibled to," Dansby said. "We put time in. It's preparation. We're watching film. We're on it. We're dialed in. We're studying, and we're making sure that we're on point."
Peter King, renowned NFL writer for Sports Illustrated and the MMQB, was vocal about Dalton's showing.
Cincinnati's got to take Dalton out of this game. He's abominable.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) November 7, 2014
King expounded on that thought in his Friday column at the MMQB:
Dalton had his weapons, A.J. Green and Mohammed Sanu, and a good young runner, Jeremy Hill, on the field Thursday night. He was wild high early, and just plain wild late. There is no way Cincinnati fans, and the Cincinnati front office and staff, can exit this game with the same blind confidence they’ve shown in Dalton after the three early playoff exits. This wasn’t quite a referendum game, but close to one … and Dalton lost the way McGovern lost to Nixon in 1972.
Perhaps even more alarming is Dalton's other atrocious game only three weeks ago in a 27-0 whitewashing against the Indianapolis Colts. Dalton went 18-of-38 for 126 yards, mustering the fourth-lowest completion percentage (47.4) of his career and his six-lowest yardage total.
Before the season began, the Bengals signed Dalton to a six-year, $115 million contact through the 2020-21 campaign. After making the playoffs and improving each of his first three years, the deal seemed justified if not a tad pricey. However, Dalton has regressed in a season in which many believed the Bengals would be a true Super Bowl contender, falling hard since a 3-0 start.
At 5-3-1 and with games left against the Steelers (twice), Browns, Saints and Broncos, Cincinnati will have a tough time making the playoffs in a conference with 11 teams currently over .500.