Andy Dalton: We Haven’t Earned Our Way There Yet

The Cincinnati Bengals ended a two-game skid with a dominant 31-7 win over the Rams on Sunday. The Bengals improved to 9-2 on the season and are just one game back of the Patriots (10-1) for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Not bad for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in a quarter of a century.

Does this season feel different in Cincy?

“Yeah, I think we’ve been playing some of our best football since I’ve been here,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “A lot of the same guys are here from when I started. We’ve obviously added pieces along the way. But for us, we can’t worry about what’s happened in the past. We can’t get (those playoff) games back. We just got to look forward to what we’re trying to do and we’re trying to play our best football come the end of the year and on to the playoffs. We still haven’t earned our way there. We’re still not in yet. But we just got to keep playing like we know we can play.”

Dalton, who has been criticized for inconsistent play in the past, is playing like an MVP candidate this year. He has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,971 yards, 23 touchdowns and six interceptions.

More than half of Dalton’s touchdowns – 12 of them, to be exact – have gone to tight end Tyler Eifert, who has become one of the most dangerous red-zone targets in all of football.

“He’s such a talented guy,” Dalton said. “He’s big, he can run, he’s got great feel for the game. It’s been big for us. To get a guy like that back after him missing the whole year last year with injury, he’s been a big part of this offense and a big reason for the success that we’ve had.”

The Bengals have a three-game lead over the Steelers (6-5) in the AFC North but end the season with a division-heavy slate. They face the Browns, Steelers, 49ers, Broncos and Ravens the rest of the way.

Just how important are these games?

“They’re big, especially at this point in the season,” Dalton said. “You want to be playing your best football. This kind of sets the tone for what’s going to happen when you get to the postseason. And so for us, we got to keep this one-game-at-a-time mentality and keep finding ways to win.”

If the Bengals win out, they’ll finish 14-2, which would be the best mark in franchise history. Bengals fans, however, just want a playoff win. In fact, they booed the Bengals following their 10-6 Monday Night Football loss to the Texans.

Are fans in Cincy still a little guarded? Are they still not sure what to make of this team?

“We feel like Cincinnati has really bought in and really everybody’s supporting us,” Dalton said. “It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of this city and to see the excitement everybody has for what’s been going on. There’s been a lot of happy people here in Cincinnati this year. We’re just trying to keep that up.”

Speaking of the aforementioned Texans, Dalton squashed the postgame back-and-forth that ensued with J.J. Watt following the loss.

“All I knew was what someone told me he said, and that’s what I responded off of,” Dalton said. “That’s in the past now. I’ve got no ill will toward J.J. There’s no controversy between me and him.”

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