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What do Bengals do with Dalton now?

Updated: Wednesday, January 8 2014, 05:08 PM EST

CINCINNATI (AP) -- What do the Bengals do with Andy Dalton?


The second-round pick has done exceptional things by getting
Cincinnati to the playoffs each of his first three seasons, something
only four other quarterbacks have done in NFL history. Unlike those
other four, Dalton has yet to win in the postseason.


Not only has he lost, he's been horrid.


Dalton has played his worst games in the biggest moments, including a
three-turnover second half on Sunday that helped San Diego pull away to
a 27-10 victory that extended Cincinnati's record-tying playoff misery.


It's now 23 years since Cincinnati has won a playoff game, tied for
sixth-longest streak in league history. And the Bengals have tied the
league record by losing their first playoff game in three straight
seasons.


In those three games, Dalton has thrown for one touchdown and four
interceptions. He has missed open receivers and forced passes that were
picked off.


So, what now?


Marvin Lewis who is 0-5 in the playoffs as a head coach, one loss
shy of the record is reassuring his quarterback that he's still the
team leader.


"I believe in his abilities, I believe in his makeup, I believe in
his maturity and I believe in his ability to let the last play go and
move on to the next play," Lewis said.


That could change during an offseason that will be all about Andy.


The AFC North champions have enough returning talent on offense and
defense to reach the playoffs again. The only big questions surround the
quarterback.


Dalton and receiver A.J. Green are entering the final years on their
contracts, the time for teams to reward players it wants to keep. Green
most likely will get a hefty extension this offseason based upon his
three Pro Bowl seasons.


What about Dalton? Do they believe in him enough to give him a lot
more years and a lot of money? Or is it time to start hedging their bets
and looking at the alternatives?


The Bengals could hold off on an extension, let Dalton play his final
season and bring in another quarterback through the draft or free
agency to compete for the job. Or they could just keep the status quo
and leave it all up to Dalton again.


Lewis is reassuring Dalton that it's still his team.


"He said I am the guy he believes in, and he believes that I can get
us over the next hump," Dalton said. "It's great to hear that from your
coach, and that's what I wanted to hear."


Others aren't so sure.


"I'm drafting someone regardless because this team has it ... but it
seems like this guy just cannot seize the moment," former NFL cornerback
Deion Sanders said on the NFL Network.


Until Sunday, it appeared Dalton was ready to do it. He set club
records for touchdown passes and yards passing while leading the Bengals
to the AFC North title this season. He joined Pat Haden, Dan Marino,
Bernie Kosar and Joe Flacco as the only quarterbacks to reach the
playoffs in each of their first three seasons.


The other four won in the playoffs. Not Dalton, who had an impressive
first half against the Chargers 12 of 17 for 164 yards, a touchdown
and a 120.7 passer rating before imploding with a fumble and two
interceptions in Cincinnati's scoreless second half.


Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden saw Dalton start to press as the halftime lead slipped away.


"Once you're in the playoffs and you get a lead and then all of a
sudden you lose a lead and then all of a sudden you start pressing just a
little too much, and you start trying to scramble to try and make
things happen that you're not used to making," Gruden said. "It becomes
difficult."


Dalton's not the first quarterback to experience such playoff failure. Actually, he's in pretty good company.


Warren Moon lost four straight opening-round playoff games, while
Otto Graham, Y.A. Tittle, Joe Montana, Bert Jones and Randall Cunningham
also lost three in a row just like Dalton, according to STATS.


Dave Krieg lost five straight playoff games overall for the NFL
record since 1950, according to STATS. Tittle, Billy Kilmer and Moon
lost four straight. Dalton is tied with 23 others at three consecutive
playoff losses.


Now what?


"I don't think he's ready to be the guy who wins the game by
himself," Gruden said. "I don't know how many quarterbacks are. There's
only a select few of those in the NFL. But we need to be great around
him, and we weren't great around him."


___


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

What do Bengals do with Dalton now?


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