Good Tuesday morning, everyone. If you had the day off Monday, best wishes to you as you start this new work week.
Like they do every week, the Cincinnati Bengals are having their own version of an off day Tuesday. Their practice week won't officially begin until Wednesday morning. They'll use the hours until then to heal up, rest up and study up for the Week 7 challenge that is the Detroit Lions.
Among the game-changers and difference-makers the Bengals will have on their roster when they travel to Ford Field on Sunday is quarterback Andy Dalton. The third-year player had arguably his best game in a year this past weekend when he threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Buffalo. Cincinnati will be looking for more of the same out of him when he faces another young, promising quarterback in Matthew Stafford.
Dalton's tenure in Cincinnati has gone much the same way his predecessor's, Carson Palmer, did. He's had to answer critics at just about every turn and he's had the offensive weapons around him to make the critics wonder why he even has occasional problems and hiccups in the first place. Perfection has been demanded of Dalton, and not just from fans and media. Those close to him and his coaches also want it. Excellence, they believe, is well within his reach.
Still, having said that, is Dalton Drew Brees? Is he Aaron Rodgers? Whether he's able to live up to those lofty comparisons or not, that's exactly what the Bengals want "right now, today," according to coach Marvin Lewis.
Welcome to the Morning Stripes: Andy Dalton edition. Take a few minutes to read what all has been said about him in the wake of Sunday's stellar performance in a win that put the Bengals in sole possession of first place in the AFC North:
We'll start with our ESPN NFL Nation story from Lewis' news conference Monday afternoon. It should come as no surprise that Lewis came out and pledged his support for Dalton after such a strong performance from the quarterback, but what he said was quite noteworthy. Lewis compared Dalton to a few other NFL quarterbacks and asked which comparisons were the most accurate to judge his quarterback by. We also had a few other tidbits from Lewis on the 27-24 overtime win at Buffalo.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy took a look at the scope of the Dalton comparison chatter and made the point that perhaps the reason Dalton doesn't get some of the respect that it could be argued he deserves is the fact that when he looks good, he makes it look easy; almost too easy. You won't see many deep downfield throws from Dalton, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's not because he has difficulty throwing them, it's just that it makes more sense with the weapons he has to get the ball to them in more efficient spaces of the field where their athleticism can take over and gain the chunk yards. You won't see a ton of 300-yard games from Dalton for that reason and others, but you'll see them. He won't wow you, but Dalton has shown he can do just enough to win.
Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen took it a step further and just came out and said it: Dalton's playing well, just don't tell anyone he is. Like the other two stories, Goheen's argument is that like the girl in one popular AT&T commercial "We want more, we want more." Again, that includes Lewis and his staff, too.
One other person who wanted a little more from himself Sunday was Bills running back Fred Jackson. In this Buffalo News story, Jackson said he felt to blame for the fact that Buffalo didn't score when it got in goal-line territory during the second quarter of the game. The Bills made it a four-down drive and were still denied by a Bengals goal-line defense that has risen up multiple times this season. (More on that on the Bengals blog Tuesday.)
It wasn't just goal-line defense, overall the Bengals' defense got stops when it needed to -- at least early -- Sunday. Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson wrote a little about that.