CHICAGO - Andy Dalton remembers how strange it felt playing against the Bengals. That the game was in Cincinnati made it that much more emotional for the veteran quarterback.
"It was cool for me, though, because they received me well," Dalton said Wednesday. "My wife and I, we poured a lot into the city, into the community, into the organization and everything. I was well received."
Dalton goes against the Bengals for the second time in as many years when they visit the Chicago Bears on Sunday. And this one figures to be a little less emotional than when he faced them last season as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
"I kind of got that out of the way last year, and now I’m just focused on doing what we can to win the game," he said.
The Bears are looking to bounce back from a season-opening, 34-14 loss to the Rams in Los Angeles. The defense got picked apart by Matthew Stafford, and Dalton did little to quiet the calls for prized rookie Justin Fields.
He gets another chance, and beating the Bengals again, as he did last season, wouldn’t hurt.
"Andy has obviously been playing at a high level for a long time," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. "He’s a smart player and is going to put his team in a great position to do really good things, so we certainly have our work cut out for us."
Dalton’s return to Cincinnati was one of the highlights of his lone season in Dallas. He threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-7 romp.
It was a sweet win for a quarterback who made three Pro Bowls in nine seasons with the Bengals. He led them to the playoffs his first five years after they drafted him out of TCU in the second round in 2011, but he never won a postseason game. He was released after Cincinnati drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in 2020.
Dalton signed with Dallas as a backup, then wound up making nine starts with Dak Prescott suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5. The Cowboys finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Dalton was the face of the franchise in Cincinnati and holds most of the team’s passing records. The warm reception he got in his return stands in contrast to the one he has received in Chicago.
For fans hoping the Bears would swing a blockbuster trade for Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Dalton’s arrival in March on a one-year, $10 million deal was a letdown. They got a jolt of excitement when general manager Ryan Pace traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to draft Ohio State star Fields with the No. 11 pick.
For now, Dalton’s the starter. For how much longer remains to be seen.
In the opener, Dalton was intercepted in the end zone on the game’s first possession after Fields helped put them near the goal line. He finished with 206 yards and was sacked three times. Fields, in on five plays, made the most of his limited time. He completed both his passes for 10 yards and, on his only rushing attempt, scored on a 3-yard run.
The Bears did not complete a pass longer than 19 yards. They never looked downfield despite adding some speedy receivers in the offseason such as Marquise Goodwin, a track and field standout who was a two-time national champion in the long jump at Texas and made the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
"One thing when we look back at the game, we were limited in that area," Dalton said. "We weren’t able to take very many chances downfield. I think if you look back it’s something that we wish we could have done a little bit more in that game. I think we understand that, we understand how we want to play. That’s kind of where we’re at right now."