Depending on whom you speak to, Andy Dalton might be the best, or at least, the most decorated quarterback the Bengals have ever had. In his time in Cincinnati, Dalton made the Pro Bowl three times — the same as Boomer Esiason, and only one less than Ken Anderson, the two Bengals quarterbacks to have played in Super Bowls. Dalton is not only Cincinnati’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (204), he also had the most fourth-quarter comebacks (21) and is second in all-time passing yards (31, 594). Even while playing in a more dialed-up passing era, he’s certainly the most statistically accomplished Bengal passer ever.
But Dalton never won a playoff game. And for all the numbered accolades, he only declined at a steady pace following a disappointing one-and-done 2015 playoff. The Bengals had their chance to move on to Joe Burrow, the 2020 No. 1 overall pick, and they didn’t hesitate. Burrow was The Man, the Tiger King if you will, and Dalton was an also-ran. A Red Rifle turned BB gun.
And yet, Dalton already had his #RevengeGame against the Bengals. A 30-7 drubbing with the Cowboys last season, where Dalton threw two touchdowns in his return to the city on the Ohio River, was basically a perfect return to a place he once spent a decade in. The ill will, or at least any motivation for ill will, is gone, faded. The Bengals got their quarterback wish, and Dalton had his one last fleeting laugh.
I don’t know what the motivation will be this time around. Burrow didn’t play in last season’s revenge game because of a torn ACL, but I don’t think that matters all that much to Dalton anymore. And I’m not sure the Soldier Field crowd, in the first capacity game in a year and a half, in the home opener, no less, will be all that interested in Dalton’s storylines or motivations. The quality of this Bears team, or lack thereof, is difficult to hide. What will be apparent to everyone present is a young quarterback, perhaps a star, on the rise in Burrow on the cusp of taking his team to a promising 2-0 start. (Chicago’s fledgling secondary is standing on the watch like a crumbling castle wall.) While the Bears play his predecessor, potentially struggle with him under center, and hold off their own prodigy from playing.
If Dalton has another #RevengeGame in him to keep the Bears from falling into an 0-2 hole, now would be the time to unleash it. I get the sense 61,500 people will show little patience for his presence otherwise.
Windy City Gridiron picks Bears-Bengals and every other NFL game in Week 2.