It was Cincinnati vs. San Diego and Bengals fans turned on their starting quarterback.
His name was Ken Anderson.
I’m referring to a 31-14 home loss to the Chargers in 1980. Here’s how it was described in the UPI’s account of the game:
“When Anderson trotted onto the field to start each new offensive series, some of the fans booed. Late in the third quarter when Anderson went down with an injury to an already gimpy knee, cheers erupted from several sections of the stadium”
So if anybody can identify with the harsh treatment that the current #14 often receives, it’s the quarterback who wore that number in Cincinnati for 16 seasons.
“It goes with the territory,” said Anderson. “If you want to play quarterback in the NFL, that’s all part of it. They love you when you’re playing good, and when you’re not playing good, the most popular guy in town is the backup. You’ve got to have thick skin. (Andy Dalton’s) had so much success already in his career. For crying out loud – the numbers of games that he’s won, going to the playoffs in his first four years – it’s been remarkable.”
Remarkable is a good word to describe Dalton’s play in the first two games of the season. He’s completed 68% of his passes with 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and has a passer rating of 120.3.
“He hasn’t made any mistakes and he’s not a game-manager either,” said tight end Tyler Eifert. “We’re making big plays and we’re taking care of the football.”
Eifert has been on the receiving end of three of Dalton’s five touchdown passes in the first two games, including what proved to be the game-winner on Sunday. With a 17-13 lead in the fourth quarter, the Bengals faced third-and-goal from the Chargers’ 9-yard-line. The 25-year-old tight end lined up as the lone receiver to the right and faked an outside move before getting inside position on San Diego cornerback Brandon Flowers. As soon as Tyler got separation, Dalton hit him in the back of the end zone.
“It was a perfect ball because it went right by his fingertips,” said Eifert. “I kind of took a while at the line, but Andy stuck with it.”
Dalton also made a pretty throw to A.J. Green to beat Flowers for the Bengals’ first touchdown. Green had a seven inch height advantage in that match-up, and the Bengals quarterback tossed it high enough where Flowers was defenseless.
“We do that every day in practice,” said Green. “Just give me a chance and I’ll go try to make a play. It’s as simple as that.”
“He put the ball up in their eyes where we want it,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.
The stats through two games speak for themselves, but earlier this week, I asked offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to take us behind the scenes into the locker room and the meeting rooms and tell us what he sees out of Dalton.
“I see a different quarterback,” Jackson told me. “I see a quarterback that’s functioning at a high level on-and-off the field with his teammates. I think there is a confidence there and I think there is a comfortability between him and myself, and I think he knows that there’s nothing that we can’t talk about. There might be something that he sees differently than me and we can have that conversation. There might be something that he feels very strongly about and wants to do and my door is always open. To me, that’s the quarterback’s deal. This is your offensive football team. We’re going to go as you go. And you should never go into the game feeling uncomfortable about anything. You should feel very comfortable about what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Dalton obviously won’t have a triple digit passer rating every week and won’t silence his critics until he achieves postseason success.
But first he has to lead the team back to the playoffs, and he’s guided the Bengals to a 2-0 start.
“Andy is a great quarterback,” said Green. “He gets us in great position to score. He’s not going to make any big mistakes and he’s playing great. And if we keep making plays when our number is called he’s going to play even better.”
“He’s done so much work this offseason,” said Jackson. “I cannot commend him enough and hopefully we can stay consistent and he can continue to play like that for the rest of the year.”
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