The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of their first four-game winless streak since 2012, and quarterback Andy Dalton is mired in one of the worst four-game stretches of his career.
Since a 31-17 victory against Cleveland on Oct. 23, a game in which Dalton threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns to raise his season passer rating to 100;7, the Bengals have gone 0-3-1 to all but extinguish their playoff hopes. During that span, Dalton has completed just 57.4 percent of his passes for an average of 244.5 yards per game with four touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 73.0.
But offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, who knows Dalton better than anyone after working as his position coach the previous five seasons, defended his quarterback and said there’s more to the decline in numbers.
“He’s played pretty well,” Zampese said. “This past game, we had our ups and downs through the course of the game. I just know that he battles and he works so hard and he wants to be so right all the time. So when you’ve got it like that, you know you’re going to get the best out of the guy every week.
“We get the best effort out of that guy every week,” he continued. “Not every week goes the way we planned. But what he puts in goes exactly how he planned.”
Dalton’s best passer rating during this four-game stretch was 81.7 in the tie vs. Washington. The last time he failed to top 81.7 in three consecutive games, let alone four, was in 2013 with the back-to-back overtime losses at Miami and Baltimore followed by a home win against Cleveland.
Dalton showed up on the injury report with a right shoulder issue on Nov. 16 and was listed as limited. He was limited the following Wednesday as well, but he quickly shot down any notion that his recent dip is due to any soreness.
“No, I feel good,” he said when asked about the shoulder during Wednesday’s press conference.
Part of the reason for the recent struggles, of course, can be attributed to not having A.J. Green the last two games.
Green also missed three consecutive games with a turf toe injury in 2014, and the team went 0-2-1 in his absence. And he had to sit out the wild-card playoff game that season with a concussion, and the Bengals offense was non-existent in a 26-10 loss at Indianapolis.
Of the other five wide receivers on the roster, four — Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Alex Erickson and Cody Core — are either rookies or in their first year with the Bengals, while James Wright is still working his way back from a 2014 knee injury that forced him to miss all of 2015.
“For us, everybody has to be on the same page,” Dalton said. “We have to get our timing down. We have to make more plays.”
In addition to leading the Bengals to five consecutive playoff berths, Dalton won 44 games in four seasons at TCU (including three bowl games) and played for a state championship in high school.
“It’s different,” he said of the current losing skid. “I’ve never really been in this situation in my life or with any sport that I’ve ever played. I’ve been just trying to figure out how to change it.”
Injury update: One day after being listed as limited, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry (calf) and tight end C.J. Uzomah (calf) sat out Thursday’s practice.
Wide receiver A.J. Green (hamstring) and safety Derron Smith (thigh) also sat out, although for the second day in a row both were doing rehab work on the side during the portion open to the media.
Quarterback AJ McCarron returned to practice after missing Wednesday with a neck issue, while guard Clint Boling (shoulder), defensive end Carlos Dunlap (thigh), tight end Tyler Kroft (concussion) and wide receiver Brandon LaFell all were full participants after being limited Wednesday.
Long snapper Clark Harris (groin), H-back Ryan Hewitt (foot) and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) were limited for the second day in a row. Wide receiver James Wright (hamstring) was limited after going full Wednesday.
For the Eagles, leading receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) was limited after missing Wednesday, while starting running back Ryan Mathews (knee) and starting right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) sat out for the second day in a row.
Philadelpia Eagles (5-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1)
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
TV: Ch. 19, 45
Radio: 700-AM, 1530-AM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM]]>