Posted January 05, 2014

Andy Dalton flops again as Chargers rally past Bengals in wild-card round

AFC North, AFC West, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers
Andy Dalton turned the ball over three times in the Bengals' 27-10 loss to the Chargers.

Andy Dalton turned the ball over three times in the Bengals’ 27-10 loss to the Chargers. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Leading by 10 and facing a 4th-and-inches from the Cincinnati 41 in the fourth quarter Sunday, the Chargers opted for the ultra-conservative route. They took a delay of game, then punted it away.

The message from San Diego head coach Mike McCoy was clear as day: He trusted his defense to hold down the fort more than he feared Andy Dalton or the Bengals offense.

Despite securing a third straight playoff berth (this time complete with a division title and home game), the Bengals entered Sunday’s game with the same questions about their quarterback play — not to mention their coach’s ability to win in the postseason — hovering like gnats on a summer day.

In a 27-10 loss, Dalton only further fueled the notion that this Cincinnati team has maxed out what it can accomplish with him at the helm, even though his coach disagrees.

“I don’t have any questions about Andy’s role,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis declared after the game.

Lewis — who likely will have to fight back the wolves himself after dropping to 0-5 in the postseason — may be the lone voice in Cincinnati taking that stance.

Dalton entered wild-card weekend with two playoff appearances under his belt, both ugly losses to the Texans. The 26-year-old QB completed just 46.7 percent of his passes in last year’s season-ending defeat, and he needed until Sunday’s matchup with the Chargers to throw his first career postseason TD.

That scoring strike, a four-yarder to Jermaine Gresham, came during a second quarter in which Dalton appeared primed to change his critics’ minds. During that stanza, he threw for 128 yards as the Bengals took a 10-7 lead to the locker room.

It was Philip Rivers, though, who took charge of the game after halftime. Rivers, himself no stranger to wearing the “choker” label, completed all six of his passes on San Diego’s opening drive of the third quarter. He capped off the drive with a TD pass of his own, to Ladarius Green.

The Chargers would not trail again.

“I think we’re just playing better together in all three phases,” said Rivers of his team, which last suffered a loss in Week 13, against this same Cincinnati team. “We didn’t turn it over, which was key. It always is during playoff games.”

His coach agreed: “That’s the key thing,” McCoy said of preventing turnovers. “It’s really about in big games teams lose the game rather than win it. And when you make mistakes, it hurts your football team.”

A pain Dalton knows all too well.

The 14-10 edge given the Chargers by that Rivers-to-Green touchdown held up (and grew) mainly because Dalton crumbled. As his offensive line failed repeatedly to keep an attacking San Diego defense at bay, Dalton responded with mistake after mistake.

He fumbled while attempting to scramble for a first down, producing a costly unforced error. He tossed a brutal interception, and then another. And when he finally did compose himself, the pieces around him missed their cues. Worst of the bunch was A.J. Green, who dropped a deep ball that may have swung momentum back in the Bengals’ favor with time to spare.

“I can’t sit here right now and analyze Andy’s play throughout,” Lewis said, “but I think it’s unfortunate we had the turnovers today.”

The Bengals were unbeatable at home during the regular season, posting an 8-0 mark in Paul Brown Stadium. The offense was a borderline juggernaut along the way — it averaged 41.2 points over its final five home games.

None of that success carried over to Sunday.

As is often the case when teams lose, in the playoffs or otherwise, the issues were not limited to the quarterback. The Bengals’ improved run game did not produce a gain of longer than 12 yards all afternoon; Green was limited to three catches for 34 yards, thanks to that drop.

The Bengals also had a difficult time holding up in the trenches. When Dalton wasn’t scrambling for his life on offense, his fifth-ranked run defense was allowing 196 yards on the ground, including a 58-yard scoring run late by Ronnie Brown.

“I don’t think you question everything you do, you just don’t get to … go back and rectify it tomorrow,” Lewis said. “That’s the hurt of it, the pain of it.”

Rivers and the rest of the Chargers, on the other hand, will have at least another week of life this season. McCoy heaped much of the praise for that reality on the rest of his staff, including offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who is believed to be on at least a couple of short lists for head coaching jobs around the league.

Whisenhunt kept the wraps on Rivers in the first half; Rivers threw just six passes over quarters one and two combined, matching his lowest pre-halftime total since his first career start back in 2006.

When Whisenhunt did, finally, turn Rivers loose, the game shifted in San Diego’s favor. Dalton’s string of miscues cemented the outcome.

“We said from Day 1 that the best coverage is a good pass rush,” McCoy explained of the Chargers’ defensive strategy, “and they got after [Dalton].”

San Diego needed a bevy of things to break its way over the season’s final few weeks just to get to the postseason, not the least of which being Ryan Succop’s botched field-goal attempt late in Week 17. Perhaps because of that unusual path to the postseason, the Chargers came into Sunday’s wild-card game feeling a bit like they were playing with house money.

“We talked all week about this being the fifth round,” said Rivers of his team facing four straight must-wins to close the regular season, “so the sixth round will be next Sunday in Denver.”

Cincinnati, meanwhile, had to fight its demons — a history bereft of a playoff win since 1990, with Lewis sporting an 0-5 record in the postseason after Sunday’s game.

The second half was what you’d expect of a team with the reputation of underachieving when it counts. Cincinnati shot itself in the foot over and over again on offense, and failed to come up with any meaningful stops on defense.

Dalton’s reputation will take a major hit as a result, with most of that backlash deserved after Sunday’s performance.

60 comments
gfggreasefilter
gfggreasefilter

I don't know why jay gruden gets a pass. NFL head coach prospect? His bonehead play calling cost us several games this year. move Marvin to GM promote Zimmer to head coach . otherwise instead of 3 peat it'll be 4peat.

George
George

Hey!   We can create a new dance sensation that'll sweep-ah the nation:


" ♫♪♫ C'mon everybodYEE ... ♫♪ ♪ uh-do the Carrot Top flop!! ♫♪ ♪ "


=D

PalubaSD
PalubaSD

Dalton did have 2 bad TO's, but the INT by Shareece Wright wasn't completely terrible. He did choke, though. But, every articles fails to give credit to the Chargers defense, which was absolutely amazing yesterday. We have great linebackers, an All-Pro safety in Weddle, and some pretty decent corners, as of laate.

LittleStuie
LittleStuie

First comment to a post EVER in many years of internet reading, but just had to create an account to say, where did Chris Burke ever get the idea that P Rvers carried a "choker" label. I'd challenge him to prove that. The P River who almost defeated the Patriots in the AFC championship game on one leg, who beat P Manning in Indy in a playoff game, who lost a playoff game against Rex Ryan when his team's kicker missed some easy field goals, who lost his first playoff start against New England when his team's defence couldn't hold a late lead. Call Rivers many things but definitely not a choker of any kind. Lame, Chris, lame.  P Rivers may not beat Manning again next week in Denver, but if he doesn't it will definitely not be due to a tightened neck. Sheesh!

Wombat
Wombat

I agree that Dalton did not look like an "elite" QB but if you watched any Bengals games this year you would see that it was only when the rest of the offense fell apart that Dalton would start throwing interceptions. Like the run and fumble yesterday, he tries to do too much! He is a decent QB but he does not have a "Brett Favre mode" that allows him to scramble and make something out of nothing, (and even Favre had an interception problem if you'll remember). If the line would hold for him or the running game would have worked or if more wideouts than just Marvin Jones could get open; well I think Dalton may have been fine. The fact is, the O-line let us down. Gruden's mysteriously flat play calling let us down. Horrible clock management let us down, (why didn't they ever go to a no-huddle when things became pressing)? Even their vaunted defense let us down... 196 yards on the ground and a 58 yards TD run? That hasn't happened all season... and worst of all, the Bengals came out flat and emotionless. The Chargers were the only team that looked like they were stoked to play and that emotion won them the game. It was a total team loss for the Bengals... you can't lay this just at Dalton's door.

AF Whigs
AF Whigs

I'm not even a Bengals fan and this article is complete nonsense.  So it all falls on the QB?  Is he supposed to block for himself and catch his own passes?  It's a team game.  There's so much that goes into a win or a loss and to put it on one player just to make a provocative headline is foolish.

illTechnica
illTechnica

The 3 playoff appearances mean nothing. When you fail to foster an atmosphere that gets your team in "playoff speed" 5 postseason visits, you deserve to go. They played not to lose vs playing to win. It's the fact that the Bengals have a mental block. And it's name is Marvin Lewis, Co - starring Andy Dalton. And with Mike Brown, as The Enabler. As long as the Bengal remain profitable, Mike could care less about the product on the field, playoff wins or, lol, Super Bowls. Trust me, having been (past tense) a Bengal fan from '83 to '14, nothing will change next season except top assistant coaches and free agents jumping ship. Mike will remain loyal, as enablers do, to Marvin. This is one former fan whose heart they can no longer have.

George
George

Carrot Top really skrood the pooch today.


Give thanks if you are not a bungles fan.  That team has a lot of things that need cleaning up.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

John Madden once said turnovers only stat that mean anything in football. Dalton had 3, bengals lost

JG
JG

Andy Dalton = Jon Kitna

SurftheBu
SurftheBu

Fire a coach that got you to the playoffs for three years straight? Are you insane?


Redskins fan

JackLail
JackLail

Horrific? The massacre at My Lai was horrific. the 9/11 terrorist attacks were horrific. The Columbine and Newtown school shootings were horrific.


Chris Burke clearly needs to work on his adjectives.

BrownsBear
BrownsBear

Since marvin lewis was hired, the bengals have won 0 playoff games. The browns have won 1. Can you believe that. Ha Ha Ha Ha. The Bengals are still the bengals.

dchiu2013
dchiu2013

Winning a Super Bowl is not easy. It is a team sport and contending teams learn from losing.  Dalton is a good young QB, in the same grade as Flacco. Bengals need another two years before they are the top team, pushing out Broncos, Pats ( Manning & Brady will be ready for retirement ).  Only thing stopping the Bengals is themselves and the Owner. Stay the course, draft, keep your coaches.  

Carl M
Carl M

These headlines are bull-sh!t,they should be great season but Marvin Lewis can't win a playoff game. When will he be FIRED.

kevred
kevred

No way either Dalton or Lewis is gone next year. Three playoff berths in a row, and the latest one is the first of the bunch at home, and the first to feature a Dalton TD pass. 


There are about 24 other teams who would love to have these "problems". This was a lousy result, but getting a home playoff game after one of their best-ever regular-season performances is fully in the "progress" column. The Chargers have made Manning look bad in the past, now they've done it to Dalton. End of story.

barakelkin
barakelkin

An offensive line sure wouda helped.  It aint a game where blame is singular

OK
OK

Andy Dalton, the Tony El Choko of the AFC.

Keef
Keef

Team of Destiny - Go Bolts !!

RCH
RCH

Guess the Andy Man Can't.

TomPuterbaugh
TomPuterbaugh

"No stranger to the choker label". Philip Rivers may be many things, but he has NEVER been a choker. He has always had extreme confidence, maybe to a fault. But choker? What a lame comment.

Eddie the Basque
Eddie the Basque

Bears fans know what an overrated quarterback is capable of. And the front office just signed Jay Cutler for 7 years!!!! (What was management thinking?) As Dalton threw interceptions at the very worst time, I could empathize knowing Jay does the same thing. Look at the bright side, at least the Bengals made it to the playoffs. 

boltmanlives
boltmanlives

Never bet against the Bolts when underdogs and disrespected.   Like next week.


They always cover and very rarely get blown out.  This could be their year.

smedly
smedly

 Cincinnati needs to get rid of this chump. He is so overrated. He has some of the best receivers in the league jones and green...all he has to do is really toss anything up in the air and they can catch it they are that good. Many of Cinci's games were won by special teams and Defense. Just about all of Cinci's important games were lost due to Daltons interceptions. fumbles etc. What quarterback would make such a bad high risk run head first to get reward. A good quarter back would have faith in his recievers tight ends etc. He fumbled all by his self no one even touched him.


Daltons pass percentage in this game just barely 50%... Everyone has seen Elway play...and sir Dalton is no Elway and never will be.
Truthfully  Dalton is Cinci's weakest link if he was in a bigger market city he would have been released or traded a long time ago. Cinci being a small market team is probably one of the reasons they will keep him and make due with him. It's a pity Cinci has so much all around talent to get deeper into the playoffs for the superbowl It just cracks me up when commentators say Dalton is the second quarterback to take his team to the playoffs 3 times and gets credit for***THIS ***its the other way around it's more like his team carrying him not him carry them. 6 interceptions and not to mention a turnover by Dalton himself single handedly giving away the game... 

pirate
pirate

Dalton didn't play great, but most of that wasn't really his fault. Dropped balls, no running game, curious play calling, and a defense that couldn't stop the run when it counted. There's enough blame to go around. The better team won today. (But if I read the word "playing with house money" one more time, I'll scream. What a lazy cliche. Ask the Chargers if they felt they had nothing to lose and were lucky to be there.)

Tslayer
Tslayer

Sorry to say I am a Bengals season ticket holder. Unfortunately I knew the Bengals were done when Marvin Lewis gave his "Emotion Is Overrated" speech a few seasons ago. I have watched his QB and other players take on this same attitude over the years and I am finally finished myself. The fan base in Cinci has dwindled over the years because of this "no emotion attitude" and I will now join them. They will struggle to sell out next year as no matter how good there season goes as no one will want to invest there hard earned $s in another one and done playoff team.

George
George

@JG actually Dalton = Carrot Top

:D


J.r.Hock
J.r.Hock

Moron, the Browns have not won a playoff game since 94. Bill won it, and then he was run out of town. You are arguably the worst team since leather helmets. Back to floors of Lake Erie with you. Bottom feeder.

Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask
Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask

Now you know thats bad.. I guess they can always hang their hat on those 2 Super Bowl appearances. Come now dookie Brown fan, you have no room to speak.

Voiceover310
Voiceover310

@dchiu2013 Dalton is like Flacco? I don't remember Flacco having one TD pass + 6 interceptions to start his playoff career. LOOK IT UP

slickwilly
slickwilly

@kevredThe Bengals haven't won a playoff game in over 20 years. Are you serious with that "24 other teams" nonsense.

gfggreasefilter
gfggreasefilter

the bolts and the Colts will be going home next week. Your mirage will be over.

Carl M
Carl M

Dalton is in his 3rd year would you have bitched had Carson Palmer who did not play a play the first year did this in his 3 rd year. Marvin Lewis is in his 11 year as head coach and hasn't won sh't in the playoff's. 0-5 in playoff. This entire headlines is bull-sh!t just to hide what a sh!t playoff coach Marvin Lewis is.

cozmikrebl
cozmikrebl

@pirate You forgot to to mention the Chargers were in the backfield all day. The question remains,"Who do you replace Dalton with?" Serious answers only need apply

Ray1950
Ray1950

@pirate I didn't have a rooting interest in this game (New England fan) but here's another overused word ... "choker" ... written by writers and fans alike to describe  team or a player who loses. I don't see those writers or the fans on the field, playing their guts out, but man, it's so easy to throw out nonsensical words like "choker".

pickle
pickle

@pirate What game did you watch? I agree that the better team won today, but Dalton was absolutely horrible in the 2nd half. I think Mark Sanchez could have played a better 2nd half with those receivers than he did.

Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask
Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask

Which is why you Bungal fans never cease to amaze me. Talk all that noise about being a loyal fan base and how hot stuff the team is in the regular then disown them after a playoff loss.then again it could just be you because everytime I come to Mason area to visit family, all you hear is Bengals this Bengals that. if you want to jump ship then hey do your thang. 3 strait years in the playoffs after over 2 decades of shamefulness a little more gratitude is in order.

cozmikrebl
cozmikrebl

@Tslayer See ya!  Don't let the door hit you in the azz on your way out.

OK
OK

@Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask

"Not to defend either but at least Romo has one a playoff game."

Grammar wiz, you sure Tony El Choko has not "two" (sic) a playoff game? Maybe Tony El Choko has really "three" (sic) a playoff game? Could be Tony El Choko has "four" (sic) a playoff game?

In this instance, as always, it is I who "won" and you who "minus nine" (sic), Loser.

Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask
Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask

As a Raider fan I hate to toss praise to the Bolts but it could be their year to make a run to a Super Bowl. Its very plausible. The Bolts are riding momentum and unlike years past they have a fiery upbeat coach like McCoy who doesnt know any better with this team and not Norv Turner who bleeds mediocrity. I wont be happy if it happens but you cant hate and as a fan enjoy the ride.

AF Whigs
AF Whigs

@cozmikrebl :  That's exactly it.  The Bengals have a QB and coach who at least are getting them to the playoffs consistently.  Ask the Browns how the search for a QB and Coach is going for them.  I'd much rather have an organization stay with someone too long (maybe - I don't think I'd get rid of Lewis) than fire the coach and start over every 1-2 years.

EricAnderson1
EricAnderson1

@pickle @pirate Sanchez might have played a better 2nd half (might have). But neither Sanchez nor Dalton was going to win the big one. Sorry. Neither was Marvin Lewis, who is running out of excuses. One more year for him; current contract runs through 2014; tick tock.