After drops, Bengals QB Andy Dalton still believes in Jermaine Gresham

CINCINNATI -- Jermaine Gresham had barely picked himself up off the turf before cameras showed Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton barking instructions at him.

The fourth-year quarterback, clearly frustrated by an incomplete pass he threw to a wide-open Gresham, was demonstratively showing his tight end what he should have done that would have led the ball perfectly into his hands. As he repeatedly waved his right arm out wide, Dalton was loudly telling Gresham to keep running.

Yet again, Gresham paused for a split second at the end of a drag route and didn't extend it all the way through. The pause caused him to leap for what should have been a catchable ball. He fell to his knees empty-handed.

"Right after that, I told him, 'Don't worry about it, you'll get the next one,'" Dalton said. "You can't lose your guy like that. He's a big part of this offense."

That was actually the second pass in Sunday night's 43-17 loss at New England that Dalton should have completed to Gresham. The other came in the second quarter when Gresham had gotten separation from a defensive end and crossed the goal line as Dalton dropped the ball at the precise spot where Gresham had broken free. But instead of catching the pass, Gresham caught air as the ball fell through his wide grasp.

Had Gresham completed the catch, he would have capped a scoring drive that would have cut the Patriots' lead in half, bringing the Bengals to a 14-7 first-half deficit.

Instead, Cincinnati would settle for a field goal, and New England would eventually pull away.

As hard as it might be to fathom, Dalton still believes in his enigmatic tight end who is suddenly one of his least reliable passing options.

"You can't lose confidence in him because [other players] have got to see it in me, especially as the quarterback, that I still believe in him," Dalton said. "And I do. He's a good player and at the end of the day, you've just got to make the play."

It's the same message offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has been preaching.

"It's early in the season. Keep playing. He'll get to where he needs to be," Jackson said. "I have a lot of confidence in him, I haven't lost any confidence in him at all. He just has to make those plays when they present themselves."

But it doesn't seem like he is making those plays.

Gresham's miscue in short-yardage on the opening play of the third quarter Sunday (the drag he didn't finish) was eerily similar to a play he had in goal-line territory during the first week of the season. As the Bengals sat on the Ravens' 8 and were trying to punch in a score, they called upon Gresham to run a drag into the end zone.

When he got to the opposite side of the line of scrimmage from where he started, Gresham didn't just pause this time. He stopped and turned around as if he was about to block a defensive player as Dalton let go of the ball. Gresham was wide open, and all he had to do was continue the route, catch the ball and he had an easy touchdown. Instead, when Gresham stopped, the pass sailed wide of him and fell into the end zone incomplete.

Gresham, who very seldom speaks with media, later took ownership of the miscue and acknowledged that he had to stay through his route.

"At the end of the day, my job is to get them to play at the best of their ability. I've got to get him to play better, and he will," Jackson said. "He understands what he needs to do. He's a pro, he's been there before, so we've just got to get him back."