Bengals lose to Steelers as QB Dalton fractures right thumb

(The Sports Xchange) - Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will miss at least one game, and could be out for the season, after fracturing the thumb on his throwing hand while making a tackle in the first quarter of Sunday's 33-20 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dalton said he would meet with a specialist on Monday to determine the extent of the injury, which comes at a bad time for the Bengals, who are on the verge of an AFC North division title and pursuing a bye in the postseason. "It's unfortunate that it happened at this point in the season," Dalton said. "I'll do everything I can to get back as quick as I can to help this team." The injury occurred when Dalton tackled Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt following an interception. The Bengals' quarterback said he wasn't immediately aware of the extent of his injury. "I tried to grip a ball on the sideline and thought it was just a bruise I could (play) through," he said. "But I went in and got the X-ray." A.J. McCarron, who had just four career pass attempts, replaced Dalton and went 22 of 32 for 280 yards and two touchdowns along with two interceptions. McCarron will make his first NFL start on Sunday at San Francisco. Although he played in plenty of high-profile games while at the University of Alabama, McCarron acknowledged that the NFL is a different game than college. For the Bengals, the stakes are high. Cincinnati (10-3) is off to its best start under coach Marvin Lewis and is looking to end a 25-year postseason victory drought. "If you don't (have confidence) you're doomed," said McCarron as he invoked the name of Tom Brady, who took over as starting quarterback for New England after the Patriots had lost their first two games in 2001. "I've always believed in myself when I've stepped between those white lines. If you lose confidence it can go bad for you real quick." McCarron played well on Sunday, other than a pair of careless interceptions, one of which was returned 23 yards for a touchdown by the Steelers' William Gay. McCarron's number has been called, and he has big shoes to fill. In 13 games including Sunday, Dalton passed for 3,250 with 25 touchdowns this season with seven interceptions and a 106.2 passer rating. After being among the healthiest teams in the NFL for much of the year, injuries now are hitting the Bengals hard. The secondary has been decimated with the loss of corner Adam Jones. Tight end Tyler Eifert had just returned from a neck injury but left Sunday's game with a concussion. But no injury would be as crushing as Dalton's. "Andy will be out for a bit," said coach Marvin Lewis. "We'll see. I can't heal bones. We've been giving A.J. time in practice trying to create opportunity for him, but it's nothing like coming out and playing real football against a good defense." (Editing by Andrew Both)