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Andy Dalton has been impressive in his first season under center in the league, and his name is being bantered about in NFL Rookie of the Year conversation. No one anticipated he would play as well as he has thus far in 2011, and he has proven himself the leader Cincinnati was longing for.
Despite his rocket arm and leadership skills, Dalton has looked like a rookie in important spots this season. He threw two of his twelve interceptions in the first game against the Steelers, and while the blame for one of them may fall on a receiver who gave up on a route, Dalton can ill afford to take chances and make mistakes against a team like Pittsburgh.
The “Red Rifle” also made critical mistakes against the Ravens. He threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against Baltimore and committed an intentional grounding penalty that helped kill the Bengals final drive.
In fairness, the team has put Andy Dalton in situations where he has to take chances. When any quarterback, rookie or veteran, has to drop back and pass most of the second half because the team is in a hole, interceptions and mental errors will happen.
To beat the Steelers in their backyard, Dalton will be most effective if he can play conservatively. If he has to force passes in an attempt to complete another fourth-quarter comeback, he will likely make a rookie mistake that will cost the Bengals the game.