Dalton the focus as Bengals, Texans get past awful openers
By JOE KAY
Sep. 13, 2017
CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton was dreadful in the Bengals' opener, turning over the ball five times and finishing with the second-lowest passer rating of his career. He'll have one thing in his favor Thursday night: He tends not to let bad days linger.
The crowd at Paul Brown Stadium will get on Dalton if he comes out subpar when the Bengals host the Texans, with both teams coming off lopsided opening losses. Dalton, who grew up in the Houston suburb of Katy, has struggled throughout his career against the Texans' in-your-face defense.
"We had a down game, I had a down game," Dalton said . "I've just got to go back and play like I know I can play."
History is on his side.
He matched his career high with four interceptions and lost a fumble during a 20-0 loss to the Ravens on Sunday, the first time Cincinnati was shut out in a home opener. The crowd of 55,254 — 10,000 below stadium capacity — jeered him off the field. Dalton's passer rating of 28.4 was the second lowest of his career.
His only worse game was against the Browns in 2014, when he threw three interceptions at Paul Brown Stadium and had a rating of 2.0 during a 24-3 loss. Dalton followed it with a big game in a 27-10 win at New Orleans, throwing for three touchdowns and a rating of 143.9 that is the second best of his career.
"He's very competitive and very particular about things," coach Marvin Lewis said.
Dalton is 1-5 career against his hometown team, including a pair of first-round playoff losses. He's thrown three touchdowns and seven interceptions against the defense that's been in his face and in his head.
The Bengals expect his counterpart to be a rookie making his first NFL start , although the Texans hadn't said anything definitively. Deshaun Watson took over at halftime of a 29-7 loss to the Jaguars and was 12 of 23 for 102 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a fumble. The first-round pick is the ninth quarterback to play for the Texans in the past five seasons.
"He's a playmaker with good instincts, and he's young," Houston quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said. "He's going to make some mistakes, and it's on us to keep working with him and minimize his mistakes and get rid of them, not repeat them."
Some things to watch on Thursday night:
OFFENSIVE LINES: The Texans gave up 10 sacks in their opener, while Dalton was sacked five times and under constant pressure — two of his interceptions were tipped. Dalton was among the NFL's most-sacked quarterbacks last season, dropped 41 times. Neither team ran the ball much in the openers — the Texans had 93 yards, the Bengals 77 — leaving the quarterbacks in tough situations.
BAITING THE ROOKIE: The Bengals are preparing for Watson and figure they'll have a big advantage with a rookie making his first start on the road in a night game. "You've got to give him different looks, not just drop into coverage," cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. "You disguise because that's intimidating when you've got guys out there moving around, talking. That's intimidating for a young quarterback because he's got to be sitting back like, 'Man, those guys know what's going on.'"
J.J.'S SECOND CHANCE: J.J. Watt's return in the opener was underwhelming. He missed most of last season with a back injury. He was hoping to make a splash against the Jaguars, but managed only one tackle and one hit on the quarterback. Watt also was treated for a dislocated finger on his left hand.
"I think the emotion of it and just settling down is something that's probably the biggest thing," Watt said. "Just settling down, trusting what I do and not trying to do too many things at once."
PACMAN & STRONG BACK, MANY OTHERS OUT: Bengals CB Adam "Pacman" Jones returns from his one-game suspension for an offseason misdemeanor conviction. LB Vontaze Burfict serves the second of his three-game NFL suspension for his latest egregious hit. The Texans get back WR Jaelen Strong from his one-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, but they've got far worse injury problems than the Bengals. TE C.J. Fiedorowicz went on injured reserve with a concussion, and two other tight ends, Stephen Anderson and Ryan Griffin, are out with concussions, along with LB Brian Cushing and WR Bruce Ellington.
BAD NUMBERS: The Texans last opened a season 0-2 in 2015. The Bengals haven't gone 0-2 since 2008. They've been shut out in back-to-back games only once in their 50-year history, during the 2000 season. Coach Bruce Coslet resigned after that second shutout. Two members of the 2000 team, Rich Braham and Takeo Spikes, are among former Bengals stars to be honored at halftime Thursday.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.
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