CINCINNATI — “You have to move on. That’s playing the position of quarterback. You have to worry about the next play regardless of what happens. Same thing. We had a down game. I had a down game. Go back and play like I know I can play.”
That’s what Andy Dalton said Monday after playing awfully Sunday.
Having thick skin and the ability to move on is part of the job description of a quarterback. Dalton has that part down pat. He rarely shows even a hint of anger. He would never lash out at a fan.
He didn’t Sunday when some idiot threw a shirt at him as he ran off the field. Note to Mr. Shirt Tosser: Booing is fine. Boycotting is fine. Throwing anything at player is a criminal act. Hopefully, they track you down.
After a four-interception, one-fumble day in a 20-0 loss in the home opener, a lot of players would want to hide. But Dalton was in front of his locker taking questions Monday.
He also honored a commitment to appear on WLW’s Game Line in front of a live audience. The crowd at the radio event comes for autographs and drops adulation on the guests.
But Dalton is a standup guy.
But people like Mr. Shirt Tosser want Dalton benched, traded or banished. None of that’s going to happen, Bengal fans. AJ McCarren is a solid backup. Dalton is a guy who led his team to five playoff berths in his first five years in the league.
Dalton is an Xs and Os guy. He didn’t dwell on why so Bengals were so bad Sunday. He watched the game tape — before going home Sunday. That’s his way of coming back from a bad game. Coach Marvin Lewis thinks Dalton will bounce back because he always has in the past.
“He’s Andy,” Lewis said. “He’s very competitive and very particular about things, and making the things go the correct way with rhythm. We have to have better rhythm with everybody.”
And while Dalton was the one who threw the four picks, it was not all his fault.
The offensive line play is probably a bigger concern than Dalton. Dalton is a proven NFL player — three of the starters on the offensive line aren’t.
Dalton was sacked five times and hurried plenty more. Pro Football Focus rated all five starters as poor: Cedric Oghuehi (42.4), Clint Boling (38.7), Russell Bodine (36.2), Trey Hopkins (32.4) and Jake Fisher (46.2). By comparison, Andrew Whitworth graded at 90.1 last year.
“Collectively, we want to play better,” Lewis said. “We don’t want our quarterback touched back there. He was touched too often. It belongs to the entire football team. It belongs to us as a football staff in general. We’ve got to do a better job.”
The difference between success and failure is small in the NFL. If Dalton floats the ball an inch or two higher on his two red zone interceptions and they might have gone for touchdowns.
“It’s a couple of inches,” Dalton said. “You can see it on these tips balls and other things. If we don’t have those things happen, the game is completely different.”
But they didn’t and it wasn’t.
Dalton turned the page to Houston. The Texans come to Paul Brown Stadium for a game Thursday night. They have defensive line that rates better than Baltimore’s.
“Their front’s really good,” Dalton said. “For me, I’ve got to release the ball as high as I can and be on time. Up front, we’ve got to do as best we can to keep their hands down.”
That’s as close as he’ll come to blaming anyone else for the loss.
Dalton does not have that swagger that some quarterbacks do. But he’s a confident guy.
“We’ve got to bounce back,” Dalton said. “I think that’s our mindset right now. We talked about it today. We’re moving on to Houston, that’s all we can do right now.”
And he’s knows if the Bengals win the fans — even perhaps Mr. Shirt Tosser — will back on his side.
“You have to block it all out,” he said. “The same people who are saying stuff about how bad we are right now, as soon as we get a win this week everybody will be praising us. You can’t worry about what’s being said out side. You got to focus on the organization and what this team believes.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.