Patience among Andy Dalton's better traits

CINCINNATI -- Twitter can be a pro athlete's worst nightmare, if he allows it to be.

Just ask Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton about the obscenities he's had to sift through on his own feed for part of the past month and a half.

"There are times when it can be extreme," Dalton said while cracking a smile earlier this week.

It was during a three-game stretch in which his passer rating never made it out of the 60s, his QBR didn't climb past 17.3 and his interceptions outweighed his touchdowns that Dalton's name was trashed on social media more than he cared to further acknowledge. On the heels of a 30-day stretch that earned him AFC Player of the Month, Dalton's downturn was apparently quite jarring for some.

But not him. As he weathered the rocky three games, the third-year quarterback maintained the exact same demeanor in news conferences and media availability settings that he had during better days. Just like he never got too high on his praise, he wasn't getting very low on his criticisms, either. At all times, he was his same lukewarm self.

And that, as far as he is concerned, is a good thing.

"I don't know if it's in his DNA to ever show it," coach Marvin Lewis said. "But yet, he's obviously riding the wave of what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL. It's a difficult job. It's like playing cornerback on the other side. You've got to have some toughness to you and some thick skin in order to do it week in and week out and just keep doing your thing."

What Dalton did last weekend against the Colts was resurrect his play and put on a showcase that led to him being named the AFC's latest Offensive Player of the Week. Three passing touchdowns and one rushing score in a win will do that.

It was a Good Andy sighting, and one the Bengals hope to see more of as the playoff chase gets hotter.

Patience -- the kind Dalton exhibited in scrolling past and not responding to profane tweets -- is one reason why there is a measure of optimism in Cincinnati that he may be able to make the better version of himself on the field a more regular occurrence.

"Obviously you're looking for a more consistent deal from him," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said about Dalton's accordion-like inconsistency. "We want to be perfect every snap, but we're playing great defenses every week. I think he's had a good year so far."

Although the Bengals' stout defense has been their calling card all season, Dalton has led an offense that currently ranks as the league's 10th best. He also enters this weekend ranked ninth among NFL quarterbacks in passing yards (3,419), sixth in passing touchdowns (25) and 11th in completions (290). So he has to be doing something right. Right?

Not quite. As much as Gruden's endorsement rings for Dalton, the quarterback has had his share of issues this season, too.

He has particularly struggled with turnovers. Only four quarterbacks have more interceptions than Dalton's 16 this year (Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco have 17; Eli Manning and Geno Smith have 20).

"There have been too many turnovers on my part," Dalton said. "I've been conscious about when to throw the ball away and when not to try something that could make a play worse. That's the goal going in the rest of the way: not turning the ball over. It definitely helped us last week, and if you win the turnover battle, you have a better chance of winning the game."

Last week's 42-28 win over the Colts marked the first time in six games that Dalton had not been intercepted. Thanks to his offensive line's protection, he also didn't take a sack for a third straight game.

Because he is the starting quarterback of an apparent playoff-bound team that hasn't won a postseason game since the first George Bush was president, Dalton will continue to field his share of criticism. He should. But even when he does, at least Dalton knows how to handle it.

"I'm going to be me regardless of what anyone says," Dalton said.

And that, as far as he is concerned, is a good thing.