"He's had a tough go to get to where he is," head coach Marvin Lewis told ESPN.com's Coley Harvey. "But you know what? He kept working at it, and it's not too big for him and he keeps handling it."

Another weakness boiled to the surface against Denver. While the Bengals have relinquished an NFL-low 17.5 points per game, their defense is not beyond reproach. The Broncos compiled 113 rushing yards, 73 from C.J. Anderson.

Although the Bengals rank No. 7 in rushing defense, they allow 4.4 yards per rush. The Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, possible Round 1 opponents, also boast strong ground games.

Because of Monday night's loss, Cincinnati now may not avoid Wild Card Weekend, where its past four playoff runs have ended. Whether it's Dalton or McCarron taking the field, quarterback won't prove a big weakness.