One of the biggest knocks on Bengals third-year quarterback Andy Dalton is that he struggles in big games. We've seen it again this season with less-than-stellar efforts in nationally televised get-togethers with the Dolphinsand Steelers. But coach Marvin Lewis knows that Dalton can quiet his critics with a solid showing in the playoffs where he's currently 0-2.
"He's been a three-year starter so he's accomplished a lot of things in his career thus far," Lewis said during a Friday appearance on NFL Network's "NFL AM." "But until we win playoff games these questions you have ... those will always continue to be there. And that's all we can do is erase them for Andy and myself."
That said, Lewis doesn't have any reservations about Dalton, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and has 31 touchdowns against 16 interceptions.
"I keep saying this. He continues to be Andy," the coach said. "As long as everyone else continues to play at a high level around him he will do his thing week in and week out. We just have to keep pushing and prodding and making sure everybody else gets to the right spots and they're diligent with their responsibilities. If we continue to protect our quarterback and we continue to package our plays, run and pass together, that gives us good clean looks down the field all the time."
Dalton also has the full support of his teammates.
"Just keep doubting him, please," center Kyle Cook joked after Sunday's blowout win over the Vikings. "You should write something on there: 'Dalton played great, but ...' Don't give him too much credit. ...
"He's got a group of guys around him that tailor to his skill set," Cook continued. "You give him time and guys get open. He'll throw the ball and deliver it to you. When all 11 guys are playing as one, that benefits him."
And here's the thing: Dalton doesn't need a lot of time. When he's on -- and when Jay Gruden's dialing up the right plays -- Dalton gets rid of the ball faster than anybody in the league not named Peyton Manning. In fact, according to ProFootballFocus.com, when Dalton throws the ball in 2.5 seconds or less, he's completing 68.3 percent of his passes, has a QB rating of 96.5 and hasn't been sacked. But when he needs more than 2.5 seconds, Dalton's completion percentage drops to 47.1, his QB rating dips to 77.5, and he's been sacked 29 times.
"We're in a really good spot right now," Dalton said earlier this week. "We've just got to keep going. We've done a lot this year; a lot of the guys have gotten better. I think I've gotten better."
And he has. Next up: Winning a playoff game.