Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton didn’t hestitate, nor did he mince words.
Asked if Sunday’s 17-6 loss to the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium was one of the “worst and most frustrating days of his three-year career,” he said without hesitation, “Definitely one of them.”
It’s easy to see why he feels that way. The Bengals, whose only points came on 25- and 43-yard field goals by ex-Ohio Stater Mike Nugent, failed to score a touchdown for the first time in two years. It was Sept. 25, 2011 when Cincinnati, with two field goals and a safety, lost 13-8 to the San Francisco 49ers at Paul Brown Stadium.
“We expect to be better than this,” Dalton said. “To not score a touchdown, we’ve got better players than that. We’ve got all the ability in the world on this team.”
Dalton struggled, completing 23 passes in 43 attempts for 206 yards and an interception for a quarterback rating of just 58.2.
“I’ve got to be better,” Dalton said. “I’ve got to put the team in better position to win games.”
Head coach Marvin Lewis, whose team lost to the Browns at Cleveland for the third time in the last four years, didn’t want to comment fully on Dalton’s performamce.
“He moved away from pressure, which was good, but we can’t throw the football inhto coverage,” he said. “It would be better if I waited until I watch the tape to say anything more.”
Dalton and his Pro Bowl wide receiver, A.J. Green, were not in sync with one another. Green had seven receptions but for just 51 yards, with a long gainer of 16 yards.
“Joe’s a great corner, and he played good today,” Green said.
But Green and Dalton have faced great cornerbacks before and often times found a way to succeed. Not Sunday, though.
“The Browns played well, but we had chances and just didn’t take advantage of them,” Dalton said. “We know teams are going to do things to take A.J. away. We’ve got to find ways to take advantage of the good players we have.
“We never got things clicking. We’d make a big play and then we’d get a penalty or something.”
Lewis attributed the Bengals’ problems -- both offensively and defensively -- to their third-down conversion rate. The Bengals convertred just four of 14 tries (29 percent) while allowing the Browns to make good on nine of 18 (50 percent).
“The tale of the tape is that we converted too few, and we allowed them to convert too many,” he said. “We’ve got to do better on third down.
“When you don’t convert on third down, your offense can’t get into sync.”
As a result, the Bengals couldn’t really use their running game as much as they wanted. They rushed for only 63 yards and had but 266 yards overall.
Add it all up, and the Bengals are 2-2, putting them into a tie for first place in the AFC North with the Browns and Baltimore Ravens, two games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4). After having gone to the playoffs two straight years, and with high exectations, this is not where the Bengals expected to be at the quarter-mark of the 16-game regular season.
“We’ve done some good things so far this season, and we’ve done s ome things that have hurt us,” Dalton said.
The quarterback, then a rookie, was 17 of 32 passing for 157 yards and two interceptions in that loss to the 49ers two years ago. It dropped the Bengals to 1-2, but they then won their next five en route to finishing 9-7 and making the playoffs.
They’d like to do something like that again, but with the New England Patriots coming to Cincinnati next Sunday, it won’t be easy.“We can’t let this one affect us,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to move on to the next one.”