The Bengals headed to Cleveland to face the winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday trying to rebuild the momentum lost last week in falling to the Miami Dolphins. And though some things went right for Cincinnati on Sunday, even more went wrong, and the result was handing Cleveland their first win of the season, 34-24.
Though Dalton's sophomore year has had fewer hiccups than first expected, his interception rate has skyrocketed. He had nine games last season with no interceptions, but he's now thrown at least one in each of the six games he's played this year. He had three against the Browns this week, including a last-minute Hail Mary pick to end the game, and he also fumbled the ball away.
Otherwise, Dalton's passing numbers weren't bad. He completed 31 of his 46 passes, for 313 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were thrown to A.J. Green. Green brought in seven of the 11 balls tossed his direction, for 135 yards.
Cincinnati's second-best receiver was running back Cedric Peerman, who caught all eight balls Dalton threw to him, for 76 yards. Jermaine Gresham didn't have many catches—just three, to be exact—but one was a 55-yard touchdown reception, and Andrew Hawkins added 35 yards on five catches.
The run game was again an area of disappointment for the Bengals, and one reason why they had to rely so heavily on Dalton's arm. They amassed just 76 total rushing yards, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed 16 times for just 62 yards, for a 3.9 yards-per-carry average.
Cincinnati's defense did a better job stopping Cleveland's run game than they did their passing. Run defense has been an area of weakness for the Bengals so far this year, and though they gave up a total of 111 yards on the ground, it came on 34 carries—a mere 3.2 yards per rush.
The Bengals picked off Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden only once—a pass batted down by Geno Atkins that was recovered by Michael Johnson. It was but one of a number of tipped balls for the Bengals offense, but the only that resulted in an interception. Otherwise, they struggled to get to Weeden, sacking him just twice (but adding to their league-leading sack total regardless) and hitting him one other time.
Ultimately, it wasn't a lack of defensive plays that hurt the Bengals in Week 6—it was the turnovers. Dalton again was under pressure, which forced him to make poor throwing decisions. He's still having issues with accuracy under duress, and the Browns took advantage of that fact on Sunday.
If the Bengals are going to be a pass-heavy offense, then Dalton must work harder to eliminate his mistakes. Though wins and losses are never just the responsibility of the quarterback, when a team relies on their passing as much as the Bengals are right now, any mistakes Dalton makes are going to be that much more costly.
Things aren't going to get much easier in Week 7 with a Sunday night date looming with the Pittsburgh Steelers before their Week 8 bye. Without Dalton getting his errors in check, Cincinnati's hopes to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive season could soon be dashed.