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AFC North notebook: Another big-game flop for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton

AFC North notebook: Another big-game flop for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton
Browns defensive end Billy Winn sacks Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. (Andrew Weber / USA Today Sports)

Big-game failures continue to mount for Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, raising major questions about the Bengals' outlook and the six-year, $115 million maximum-value contract he signed in August.

Dalton's latest setback came Thursday night, when he went 10-for-33 for 86 yards, three interceptions and a passer rating of 2.0 in a 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. It was only the fifth time since 1960 a quarterback with at least 30 passes finished with a 2.0 rating or lower.

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"It all starts with me. It all goes through the quarterback," Dalton told Cincinnati reporters. "I've got to play better to put our team in position to win. We didn't start fast; that's on me. I have to obviously play better."

Star wide receiver A.J. Green was shut down by Browns cornerback Joe Haden, finishing with three catches for 23 yards.

"We didn't play good again on national TV," Green said. "I don't know what it is, but it's hard. We all had a hand in it, but you can't play like that on national TV."

In the past four games, Dalton has six interceptions, two touchdowns and a 54.3 passer rating.

Dalton's contract, which includes $17 million guaranteed and a $12 million signing bonus, has a base value of $97 million, but he can make up to $3 million extra annually by qualifying for the playoffs, including the divisional round, conference championship and Super Bowl. At the rate Dalton is going, Bengals owner Mike Brown will be able to save the money.

The Bengals are 6-14 during Sunday-night, Monday-night and Thursday-night games under Bengals coach Marvin Lewis since 2003, when he became coach.

Dalton is 2-9 in nationally televised games, completing 54.6 percent of his throws for 14 interceptions and eight touchdowns.

"I'm concerned about the turnovers on offense," Lewis said. "He will break out of this. He had a bad day. He'll come out of this and be fine. We will get him out of this."

Roethlisberger, Steelers offense on fire

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on an historic tear, passing for a dozen touchdowns and no interceptions over the past two games to establish an NFL record for most touchdown passes in a two-game span.

With Roethlisberger on a roll, oft-maligned offensive coordinator Todd Haley has the Steelers clicking. In consecutive victories over the Indianapolis Colts and Ravens, Pittsburgh has a combined 94 points and 1,015 yards.

The Steelers have been huddling up more during their recent stretch. They've also increased the role of athletic rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant in their offense.

"I think with some new guys in here and some of the rotation at receiver, getting into more huddle calls has given them a chance to focus in on what they have to do," Haley told Pittsburgh reporters. "We've had success with it, but we've had some success going the way we're going, and there was no need to get out of what we were doing."

Roethlisberger, whose relationship with Haley has been scrutinized, praised the play calling by the former Kansas City Chiefs head coach.

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"He's doing great," Roethlisberger said. "I came out after the Colts game and said, 'Hey, the players played good, but Todd called a good game.' He did last week, too. People ask me, 'Is your relationship better now?'

"It's so silly, you know? It's more than old news; it never should have been news. I get those same questions: 'It seems like you guys are great and the relationship is a lot better.' Well, it was never even an issue."

Browns reach milestone

The upstart Browns are 6-3 and tied with the Steelers for first place in the AFC North despite not having suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon or injured tight end Jordan Cameron and center Alex Mack.

Cleveland's record through nine games is its best since 1994, before the franchise moved to Baltimore. With wins in five of six games, the Browns are emerging as legitimate playoff contenders.

"This is definitely rare air, man," Haden told Cleveland reporters. "But I think this team and this coaching staff and the players we have, they're ready for it."

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