Marvin Lewis unsure targets always expecting Andy Dalton's passes

CINCINNATI -- It's often easy to point out a quarterback's individual successes and failures instead of highlighting what those around him are doing to contribute to his play.

But the simple fact is, when a signal-caller is doing well, it's because others on his offense are doing so, too. The same can be said when he's doing poorly.

Sure, sudden extra defensive pressure has contributed to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton not playing quite as crisply the past two games as he did in the first eight. But head coach Marvin Lewis believes the pieces around Dalton aren't giving him the best shot at success, either. Specifically, Lewis doesn't think his pass-catchers are playing of late as if they are ready for throws to come their way.

"The receivers always have to trust that he's coming to them all the time," Lewis said Monday. "They disappointed us a couple of times because they don't think they're getting it and then here it comes. They always have to have the edge to where 'I'm getting the ball.'"

It was a bold departure for Lewis, who doesn't often openly criticize his individual units. But his comments are a clear sign he and his staff are looking for some extra urgency as they try to turn things around at home Sunday against the Rams. On the heels of two straight losses, the Bengals can ill afford to make it three in a row.

"There are times every now and then you [as a receiver] think the quarterback is looking in a different spot, all of a sudden maybe you don't run as fast as you can," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. "But our players understand it, and we talk about it all the time: anybody can get the ball on any given play."

Bengals pass-catchers have dropped three passes in each of the past two games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, they also have had their lowest reception-per-target percentages of the season in those two games. For every pass that has been thrown to them the past two weeks, the pass-catchers have caught the ball 58.6 percent of the time. That's dramatically lower than the 71.1 percent clip they were catching passes in the first eight games. Drops, overthrown and underthrown passes, defensive deflections or interceptions and general miscommunication could account for the targets that fell incomplete.

All season the Bengals have showcased a diverse passing attack that has put the ball in 10 different players' hands. Even rookie offensive tackle Jake Fisher has a 31-yard reception. Five players have 24 or more receptions, putting Cincinnati on pace to have that many players with at least 38 catches by season's end. The leading receiver, Pro Bowler A.J. Green, has 59 and still has an outside chance of getting to 100. If he does, he'll be only the third player in Bengals history to hit the century mark in receptions in a single season.

So yes, the Bengals are catching passes. But they haven't been doing it enough in critical moments to please their coaches the past two weeks.

"I respect Marvin for saying that," Jackson said to reporters. "You just never know what it's from. Is a guy tired or is he playing too many plays or whatever it is?

"You guys know me. I don't put it on our players. The first place it falls is me. It permeates down through our coaches to our players. We've got to get them to do it the way we expect them to do it all the time and the players have to respond."