Where, oh where, has October Andy gone?

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
9:19
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- It doesn't seem that long ago when Andy Dalton was the talk of the NFL.

He was the Cincinnati Bengals' hero in black-and-orange striped clothing. From his right arm came victory and success.

The words "good" and "effective" were being used interchangeably to describe the quarterback, and for the first time in a long while, when they were being said by those outside the team's locker room, few even blinked an eye. People were believing it. Pinch themselves or not, they were living it.

Dalton was playing well, his team was playing well and all was right in the Bengals' universe.

After Sunday's 20-17 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens, though -- the Bengals' second extra-period defeat in as many games -- a disturbance has settled into "Who Dey Nation." In the past 10 days, there has been little praising of Dalton. He hasn't been as good nor as effective as he was during that blissful early-fall stretch that saw him racking up yards and wins and ballooning his completion percentage and season QBR.

Where, oh where, has October Andy gone?

Through the first 30 days last month Dalton played at a blistering and, for him, unprecedented pace. As he had re-established his passing relationship with A.J. Green, he started completing passes with his other young, lesser-known wideouts, too. Across a four-game stretch between Oct. 6 and 27, he led the league in yards per pass attempt and passing touchdowns, and ranked second in QBR. His 89.2 four-game QBR spiked with the 98.9 rating he posted in the Oct. 27 49-9 win over the New York Jets. Four days after that 325-yard, five-touchdown showing in the blowout victory, he was named the AFC's offensive player of the month.

Dalton didn't just look like a playoff-game winner, coupled with his team's hurt but still suffocating defense, he looked like a Super Bowl participant.

But the Dalton who has been behind center since the last day of October looks like neither.

Ten days ago, on the eve of November, a stiffer, less comfortable version of the quarterback appeared at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Hounded all night by a consistent Dolphins pass rush that was led by defensive end Cameron Wake, he threw three interceptions and couldn't complete a passing touchdown. Five dropped passes didn't help matters, either. Three of them could have led to first downs that might have helped spark more touchdown drives.

[+] EnlargeDalton
AP Photo/Gail BurtonPart of Andy Dalton's recent decline can be attributed to the constant pressure he's been facing.
Even though he crossed the 300-yard passing threshold for a fourth consecutive game, Dalton couldn't get out of the way of a Wake rush on the game's final play and ended up getting sacked into his own end zone for a safety.

A second-straight three-interception effort Sunday was the product of the same inconsistency that existed in South Florida. It's the same inconsistent play that has confounded Bengals fans for the better part of the past three seasons.

Two particularly adverse factors contributed to Dalton's struggles on Sunday. Intense pressure from various members of the Ravens’ secondary led to a number of forced throws. It also contributed to the five-sack effort that matched the Dolphins' mark last week.

In addition to being under constant duress, Dalton also had to deal with throwing into a confounding and confusing wind cross current. The gusty winds made passing difficult, even if Dalton didn't want to admit it.

"The wind was definitely a factor, but that's the way it goes," Dalton said. "You just can't think about it too much."

Similarly, Dalton can't think too much about what's been going wrong lately. Coach Marvin Lewis has been imploring him all season to leave that to the reporters, bloggers and fans.

Why Dalton is struggling now after an impressive October is uncertain. What is known is the Bengals can't succeed without more consistency at quarterback. If the Bengals are going to live up to the lofty expectations they and many others had in the preseason, they'll need a more consistent Dalton throughout the rest of the season.

Can he regain that form?

Well, he better. It's clear Bengals fans have grown quite restless and agitated with the version of Dalton who has spent the past 10 days with them.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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