The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns 23-20 Sunday to improve to 7-4 on the season, continuing their run as one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2011 National Football League season.
Sunday's win also continued the solid play of rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who completed 21 of 31 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown.
Dalton has adapted to NFL remarkably well, throwing for more than 2,500 yards with 16 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of over 80 while developing a very nice rapport with wide receiver A. J. Green and keeping the Bengals in the thick of the AFC North race.
Fellow rookie Cam Newton has received many more accolades, and while there's no arguing the Carolina Panthers signal caller is the most athletic quarterback in this year's rookie class, the argument can certainly be made that Dalton's the better passer. Plus, Dalton is leading all first-year quarterbacks in the most important statistic there is: wins.
While there's no denying Newton's athleticism, his decision making has been shaky at times. Dalton, however, has for the most part looked much more like a seasoned veteran in the pocket than a wet-behind-the-ears rookie with only 11 starts under his belt.
Given the numerous quarterbacks selected between Newton and Dalton, it's a bit startling that Dalton's had the early success he's had, but the Cincinnati Bengals should be very glad indeed the former TCU star fell to them in the second round, as it appears they may well have gotten the quarterback to have from the 2011 class, setting themselves up at the position for many years to come.