<
>

Bengals unfazed by Andy Dalton's bounce-back game

CINCINNATI -- You will recall that all last week television screens inside the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room showcased a revolving message designed to motivate the badly beaten bunch.

"Our best success comes after our greatest disappointments."

As much as it was a message intended for the entire team, it very easily could have been meant only for quarterback Andy Dalton.

Certainly no Bengal had a more disappointing game 11 days ago than Dalton. The fourth-year starter had career-lows in completions (10) and passer rating (2.0). No quarterback in the league had a single-game passer rating that low in 31 years.

One week after that ugly showing in the Bengals' 24-3 Thursday night loss to the rival Cleveland Browns, Dalton bounced back Sunday afternoon at New Orleans with a 16-for-22, 220-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Bengals' 27-10 win against the Saints. He looked like the old Dalton, the one who had guided the Bengals to three straight wins at the outset of the season. The one who is now 11-3-1 against the NFC. The one who is vastly superior than the version of himself that seems to show up in prime time, when he is 2-6.

On Monday, the message above flashed again on the television screens in the locker room. This time, behind them was a photo from Sunday of Dalton passing against the Saints.

Though Dalton's rebound might have been a pleasant surprise for Bengals fans, and a bit of a shock to his biggest critics, his teammates and coaches were unfazed by it. They knew he would respond favorably to the previous week's debacle.

"He's Andy," close friend and veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "It's the same thing I've said all along: 'He'll bounce back, he'll play well.' We didn't put him in a great position to play well last week. We all had our part in it, and obviously we've got to play better. This week we all did, and he played better, as well."

Receiver A.J. Green, caught six of Dalton's passes for 127 yards, including the 24-yard touchdown that effectively put the game out of the Saints' reach. On the fourth-quarter drive Green had his score, five of the seven plays were passes from Dalton to Green. The tandem hooked up on four of those. Each ball looked prettier than the one that preceded it.

"They were dimes," Green said of the throws. "We have faith in him, he has faith in himself. There was nothing wrong with him this week. He, and we, just kept our heads down and we kept grinding."

Dalton wasn't in the mood Sunday of thumbing his nose and shouting "I told you so!" at those who blasted him on social media all last week with cartoonish memes, and vulgar and profane tweets. Judging from some of the public messages he received, he would have been well within his rights to have done so.

"Like I said: you lose, and everyone wants to run you out. And when you win, everybody's going to like you," Dalton said. "You know, I'm not too worried about that. It was a big win for us, so it's just good to bounce back and get a big win on the road."

It certainly was a timely victory for the Bengals, who are now 6-3-1 and back atop the AFC North standings. They will have a challenging task next Sunday when they visit Houston to play a team that has beaten them five straight times, including the postseason. The Texans last lost to the Bengals in 2005.

The Texans' home, Reliant Stadium, is the site of two of Dalton's three opening-round postseason losses. In the two playoff losses, he has four interceptions and no touchdown passes.