He has to be better.
Asked what the difference in his game the last two weeks has been in comparison to what he did for four weeks in October, Dalton offered the following during his weekly news conference: "I've got to do a better job of not turning the ball over. That's what it comes down to. You've got to understand when you can take your chances and when you can't. That's something I've got to do a better job of."
The beleaguered quarterback has started pressuring himself. With a playoff berth on the line and a very real chance at seeing his team finally winning a postseason game, the stakes are rising. He realizes that.
In these last two weeks, he has received failing grade when it comes to protecting the football. A combined six interceptions -- three last Sunday at Baltimore and three more the week before at Miami -- have been the perfect illustration for his recent woes. A fumble last week that came on a hand off between him and a receiver on a reverse pushed his turnover total up to seven in the last eight quarters of play.
Asked earlier this week about Dalton's 24-for-51, two-touchdown, three-interception and 17.3-QBR performance against the Ravens, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was blunt and refreshingly honest.
"We thought he played inconsistent," Lewis said. "He had some marvelous plays, some great audibles and some great checks. He had a couple things that we wish he could have done better, and guys have to do a little better for him, too."
It's all so bewildering for those who saw Dalton's four games that preceded this recent two-game stretch of losses. Back then, he surgically and methodically dismantled the Patriots, Bills, Lions and Jets, and looked like he had finally arrived.
Lewis is confident that version of his signal-caller will return. If the Bengals are to live up to their lofty preseason expectations, he'll have to.
"He'll continue to play better," Lewis said. "We put the pressure on him always to play better. He is the offense, he runs the offense. When we're going good, he gets all the credit. When we're not as good as we should be, it's us that needs to be fixed."