- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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Average Andy: On the heels of a three-game stretch that saw him play some of the best football of his career, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton didn’t look quite as strong Thursday night when facing the Dolphins. He reverted back to some of his old ways. In recent weeks, the deep ball had been working, as he grew more comfortable opening the offense and throwing more than 15 yards in the air. In the four games entering Thursday, on throws of 15-plus yards, he had a 65.2 completion percentage with three touchdowns and no interceptions. On those same throws against the Dolphins, he wasn’t as sharp, completing only four of his 11 attempts. He also threw an interception. Still, despite those deep issues, Dalton’s 338 passing yards pushed him over 300 for the fourth straight game.
Drops, pressure a problem: Dalton’s mostly down game -- he had the second-lowest QBR of his career (13.5) -- stemmed from two particular issues. One, he had difficulty dealing with the Dolphins’ unique pressure packages that brought occasional blitzes from their defensive backfield. He also wasn’t helped by the five drops his receivers had; the most the organization has had in a game since 2007. According to ESPN Stats & Information, when Dalton faced defensive-back pressure, he was 3-for-11 and averaged 1.8 yards per passing attempt, and all three of his interceptions came when he was hurried that way. Miami’s crucial game-winning sack and safety also came when it rushed a defensive back.
Losing Geno: Four weeks ago, the Bengals were a remarkably healthy team that appeared poised to enjoy a rare NFL feat: having a year with a mostly empty injured reserve. Times have changed. In the past three games, Cincinnati has been subjected to a string of injuries that include cornerback Leon Hall and defensive back Taylor Mays (both season-ending injuries). Friday, another defender was added to that list when defensive tackle Geno Atkins was officially diagnosed with a torn ACL.
Gio goes off: In his homecoming game, South Florida native Giovani Bernard enjoyed one of the better performances of his rookie season when he rushed nine times for 79 yards and two scores. On his 35-yard touchdown run, he looked like former NFL great Barry Sanders, running through traffic and breaking five tackles. Bernard averaged 7.4 yards after contact per rush before leaving with a rib injury.