I probably spend more time thinking about Andy Dalton than just about anything else in my life. This is in part because I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a very contemplative person (what cereal should I eat? likely ranks second on my list), but I think it’s more because of how perplexing Dalton is as a subject.
In fact, I have no reservations admitting just how much I think about Andy Dalton, if only because I assume that a lot of people who cover, watch, and/or root for the Bengals would identify with me as well. He’s a mysterious fig, one worthy of our unbridled attention. (Ok, maybe “worthy” isn’t the right word, but whatever.) Dalton is to throwing the footballs what Miley Cyrus is to sexually assaulting construction equipment. He owns the impressive distinction of being analyzed via subjective statistics that give way to an incredibly diverse range of objective opinions. He’s one of about 40 people in the world that can do his job—professional quarterback—and he’s almost undoubtedly in the top half of that group in terms of success and overall performance (albeit near the bottom of that top half), yet he’s constantly being questioned, picked apart, dissected, and scrutinized by jackasses like me. I imagine it’s very similar for him to how CIA agents feel while watching Claire Danes’ character in Homeland.
But first, the defense…
1. Mike Zimmer & Co.
No Geno. No Leon Hall. Vontaze Burfict on a bum ankle. And yet they somehow manage to keep Phil Rivers in check, force three incredibly timely turnovers, and stifle what had been an impressive and potent San Diego offense over the past month. I mean, Rivers finished with a lower QB rating (80.0) than Dalton. We’ve seen this performance enough times now, which is why we officially need a kickass nickname for this unit, something much better than “Zimmer & Co.” Think Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH. I need help, or else it will end up being something lame like Mike Zimmer & the Pass Breakers.
2. Andy Dalton’s 2nd Half
I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy, so we’re starting with the 2nd half: 9-13 (69%) for 149 yards (11.4 YPA), 1 TD, 133.1 QB Rating. He had a couple nice throws to AJ, did a great job of staying calm and stepping up in the pocket on the big play to Andrew Hawkins, didn’t make any mistakes or try to force it too much.
3. Andy Dalton’s 1st Half
Not as good: 5-10 (you can do this one) for 41 yards (4.1 YPA), 1 INT, 21.1 QB rating. He had a couple terrible throws—the first one that went 10 yards over AJ’s head and left the defensive back with a clear shot at AJ’s ribs, the rainbow interception he threw into orbit—and an intentional grounding that was the worst, spazziest pass I’ve seen someone throw all season that isn’t named Brandon Weeden.
4. Andy Dalton’s Week 13
He finished 14-23 (61%) for 190 yards (an impressive 8.3 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT, 83.6 QB rating, 44.4 QBR. Average. Incredibly average. On Sunday—with the defense allowing only 10 points and running attack humming—it was enough to get a win. Will it work out that way in a must-win late-season game? In the playoffs? We’ll see.
5. Vontaze Burfict
Speaking of needing a good nickname, Burfict 13 tackles in his usual breakneck fashion, all while gutting through an ankle injury that required him to Jedi mind-trick Marvin Lewis just so he could dress for the game. That dude is one tough insane person.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Huber’s left foot, Dr. Dre’s interception, Whitworth at guard, Andrew Hawkins.
And to keep the Parks and Rec theme going as we enter Colts week: