Why Andy Dalton And The Cincinnati Bengals Are New And Improved

The Cincinnati Bengals have turned the corner. They are a new and improved franchise on the rise, and the NFL is about to hear them roar. The Bengals defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in a defensive struggle Sunday, 16-10. The Bengals had every opportunity to give in, but held on for a gritty win at Heinz Field.

The Bengals marched into the Steel City and knocked the chip off of the Steelers’ shoulder. As reported by USA Today, the Steelers held and 8-2 advantage in the last 10 games. Last year, the Steelers swept the series and embarrassed the Bengals at home in prime-time.

This was the return party for Big Ben and the Steelers. The crowd was crazy, the Terrible Towels were waving and the hatred was as thick as molasses for the upstart Bengals. The talk all week was about whether Roethlisberger would be able to start at quarterback. In true Big Ben style, he worked through the pain and was available to start.

There were rumors that he was having pain in the knee. He couldn’t find the right brace to wear and his mobility was being affected. But the Bengals weren’t buying the hype. They prepared for the game as if Roethlisberger was starting. When the clock tolled for game time, he was there, firing his team up.

Why Andy Dalton [Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]The Bengals had every right to shrink into the shadows of Heinz Field and take a loss. The Steelers needed the win more than they did and a 6-1 record would still keep the lead in the AFC North. The Bengals allowed the Steelers to drive for a touchdown on their first possession. It was a precision orchestration that took consumed over half the first quarter.

But these Bengals are different. In the face of adversity, they have no understanding of just rolling over. Instead of backing down from the AFC North bullies, they stood toe-to-toe. With nothing on the line except pride, the Bengals could have buckled and limped back to Cincinnati with their first loss. Their decision was to find an answer and stay in the grudge match. No one cried “Uncle.”

Dalton and the Bengals offense have been the face of the team in the past six wins. But the defense rose to the occasion when it was necessary. Dalton had a couple of big plays, but it wasn’t the explosive Cincinnati Bengals production that has come to be expected in games.

Safety Shawn Williams made an incredible diving interception in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger was moving up and down the Steelers offensive line. The Bengals were having trouble putting pressure on him. When he thought he saw an open receiver, he darted the pass to avoid the sack. Williams made the fantastic pick to give the Bengals another life. Yet another reason these aren’t the same Bengals.

With momentum in their favor, Dalton and the Bengals promptly figured out a game plan. They engineered a six-play 45-yard drive to win the game.

Why Andy Dalton [Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]There’s no letdown in this version of the Bengals. Vontaze Burfict played 30 snaps after just one practice and returning from micro fracture surgery. He was pressed into action when linebacker Rey Maualuga went out with a calf injury. Adam Jones was impressed as well.

“I told him that was f****** unbelievable, to go out there and play like that with just one practice.”

“The Steelers are our rival,” Burfict said. “Once your competitive nature gets into it and you’re playing the Steelers, you don’t want to come out too much.”

No quitting, no giving in. These Bengals are different.

A.J. Green carried the Bengals’ offense with 11 catches for 118 yards and the game-winning touchdown. This game marks the fourth consecutive time Green has recorded at least eight catches against the Steelers. Per the NFL Network, even with Dalton enjoying a career year, Green is on pace for career highs in receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,483).

The Bengals are definitely new and improved.

[Feature Photo by Justin K. Aller / Getty Images]