Bengals head west to face Seahawks

Published 11:58 pm Saturday, October 29, 2011

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks have been watching from afar as Andy Dalton has sparked the resurgent Cincinnati Bengals. On Sunday, they will get a first-hand look at the quarterback they almost took in April’s draft.

It’s hard to blame the Seahawks if they keep peering East to see how Dalton is playing in Cincinnati.

He was there for the taking as the first-round of the NFL draft clicked along. And sitting there near the end of the first-round with questions galore about their plans at quarterback and a book of research on Dalton were the Seahawks.

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“We liked everything about him. We did an extensive study on him,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We had the individual personal interviews with him to make sure we would have a really good sense for him. We thought he was a great pick.”

He just wasn’t the selection Seattle decided to make, opting instead to take tackle James Carpenter and begin remodeling its offense along the line of scrimmage.

That decision allowed Dalton to slide to the Bengals, who gladly scooped up the TCU quarterback with the 35th overall pick in the second round. Six months later, Dalton and a stingy defense that’s second-best in the NFL are a big part of why Cincinnati comes to Seattle on Sunday with a chance at improving to 5-2 for just the fourth time in 21 seasons.

Cincinnati is on a three-game win streak and looking to hang at the top of the AFC North with Pittsburgh and Baltimore. But they probably wouldn’t be there if Seattle had pulled the trigger and decided to address its quarterback situation with Dalton.

“I thought I had a chance of going there, especially at the end of the first round,” Dalton said. “I knew there was definitely some potential there … but it didn’t work out.”

Dalton and the Bengals had last week off, but two weeks ago against Indianapolis the rookie put together his finest performance to date. Dalton completed 78 percent of his throws, including a touchdown toss to fellow rookie A.J. Green in the Bengals’ 27-17 win.

It snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Colts and set up the Bengals for possibly even more. The last three times Cincinnati has started 5-2, it has reached the playoffs.

“We’ve changed a lot of guys out,” Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. “We had another great case of addition by subtraction and we added guys that were very, very talented with our first two picks who have made huge contributions and upgraded us in both areas. … Our defense has come in and done the things we’ve asked of them knowing that we were going to play a young quarterback, that we had to play very, very good on defense and then on special teams. I think every group has thus far continued to respond.”

The Bengals have hurdles to overcome to continue their ascent. They will come to Seattle short-handed and having dropped 11 of their last 12 road games out West. Cincinnati also will be without running back Cedric Benson, who is serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s conduct policy.

Bernard Scott will replace Benson, getting his first start since Week 17 of the 2009 season against a Seattle run defense that’s giving up the fewest yards in the league per running play. Throw in a notoriously noisy stadium and the expected fall gloom of the Pacific Northwest, and it’s the beginning of a challenging stretch in which Cincinnati plays at Seattle, at Tennessee, home for Pittsburgh and at Baltimore.

“It’s a loud stadium. It’s never going to be a pretty day up there, either,” safety Chris Crocker said. “You’re going to have to deal with the rain possibly. It’s going to be gloomy and it’s going to be loud.”

But some of the noise in the Seahawks’ stadium could be due to dissatisfaction with the home team, particularly the offense.

In last week’s 6-3 loss at Cleveland, Charlie Whitehurst started at QB in place of the injured Tarvaris Jackson and Seattle struggled, managing just 137 total yards. The no-huddle offense that sparked the Seahawks the previous two weeks, including a 36-25 upset at the New York Giants, never got going.

The Seahawks ran just seven plays in the no-huddle after using it almost exclusively in the win over the Giants. Seattle’s offense was on the field for barely 17 minutes, adding to the challenge Seattle’s defense had in holding Cleveland to two field goals.

“You don’t entirely forget about it because if you don’t learn from your mistakes then they’re bound to repeat themselves,” Seattle receiver Mike Williams said. “We’re going to stick with what works. We know that when we play fast, we play with tempo, we play aggressive we know what kind of team we are. So we have to stay with that.”

It didn’t help that besides Jackson, the Seahawks also were missing Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller, bruising running back Marshawn Lynch and center Max Unger. And there is no certainty that any of the four will be available this week. Carroll equated their absences to a baseball team missing their pitcher, catcher, shortstop and center fielder.

“Nothing happened offensively last week, but we’re determined. We’re very much determined to balance it out and make sure that we can be effective on both ends,” Carroll said. “We won’t be a good football team until we do.”