Earlier on Thursday, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Month for October for his brilliant, four-game run up to Thursday night's loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Did the league forget that October had one more day?
Dalton threw for 338 yards but was picked three times — all in crucial situations. Two of the three were on Dalton, thrown against coverage in which the Dolphins corners were squatting on underneath routes.
The first one was right before the half, with the Dolphins nursing a 7-3 lead. Dalton had driven the Bengals to their own 35-yard line with 33 seconds left, hoping to get in range for strong-legged kicker Mike Nugent. Dalton, though, underthrew A.J. Green on the comeback route, and Dolphins corner Dimitri Patterson undercut it for the pick. The Dolphins kicked a field goal before the half to make it a 10-3 lead.
Dalton's next pick was his worst. With the Bengals knocking on the door at the Dolphins' 10-yard line and the score still 10-3, threw the ball on the "out" route where it absolutely could not go — to the inside of Marvin Jones, who had gained separation on his man. Instead, Dolphins corner Brent Grimes jumped on it, picked off the pass and raced 94 yards the other way for a huge momentum-killing score.
The third interception actually came on one of Dalton's best throws of the night. With the safety drafting toward Green to Dalton's left, he made the right read and floated a gorgeous pass into traffic to Muhamed Sanu in traffic down the seam. But Sanu couldn't catch the pass that hit his hand, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe snagged it for the INT in a 17-17 game and the Bengals possessing all the momentum. (The referees missed the helmet-to-helmet call from Jimmy Wilson on Sanu, for what it's worth.)
Dalton did a lot of good things, but way too many bad ones, in the loss. Not all of it was his fault — there were at least four drops, and the pass protection was weak on some key plays — but Dalton needs to shoulder some of the blame. He seemingly had turned the corner in the past month, but Thursday was a big setback.
It was punctuated with the walk-off safety in overtime.
The Bengals might have lost their chance at a Super Bowl with the devastating Geno Atkins injury. But they certainly will not get there without Dalton playing better than he did in the Dolphins loss.
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