For one insignificant little preseason game, Cincinnati’s much-maligned rookie quarterback Andy Dalton out-played the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Dalton, the third pick of the second round, completed 11-of-17 passes for 130 yards and touchdown against Carolina in one half of work. Cincinnati’s dominant running game made life easy on Dalton, who actually misfired on a few long throws to A.J. Green or the numbers would have been much better in a 24-13 win for the Bengals.
Green was the best rookie in this game. He destroyed Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble repeatedly, catching two passes for 45 yards and a score. He had Gamble beat two other times deep but Dalton couldn’t hit him. Green also had a 11-yard run.
For the third straight game, Cam Newton looked raw and intriguing. The numbers weren’t pretty: 6-for-19 for 76 yards through the air. But Newton has avoided a turnover in all three of his outings and he showed off his legs Thursday.
Newton rushed four times for 49 yards, including a 16-yard score where he ran over a Bengals defender. That capped an impressive opening touchdown drive. His protection failed him for the rest of the night and Newton could only escape so often. Newton was erratic when he did get protection.
Ready or not, the next time Dalton and Newton play this much will be in Week One.