Mohamed Sanu (12) can throw it in a pinch.
Bengals head Coach Marvin Lewis called Andy Dalton "week-to-week," when it was determined Monday his quarterback doesn't need surgery for his fractured throwing thumb in what Lewis called "a best-case scenario."
They'll keep the thumb in a cast, but it's still a murky situation and it's uncertain if it heals before the playoffs start. But no surgery seems to indicate a possible manageable timetable if it heals well and quickly.
The next move is a tough one.
The Bengals are mulling a veteran backup for AJ McCarron until if and when Dalton comes back, but there isn't a lot of activity.
No surprise. They'll be coming to a team where they have no shot at playing next season with Dalton and McCarron already intact. Ryan Mallett signed in Baltimore Monday, presumably with the hope of being Joe Flacco's backup next season. Reports also had the Bengals talking to Christian Ponder, but nothing happened Monday.
They may just end up activating practice squad QB Keith Wenning for this Sunday. Even though he's taken zilch when it comes to game snaps, he knows the system and can call plays, and that's more than a vet could do this Sunday.
But a vet would be nice at some point, yet even if they sign Wenning they'll have to make a difficult cut from the active 53 to make room.
"We'll shake the trees. We'll find somebody that will come in here and back up until we get this thing back to where it needs to be. but we'll be fine," said offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
When asked about bringing in a veteran quarterback, Lewis said, "Stay tuned." Ponder, the 12thpick of the Vikings in 2011, went 14-20 as the starter until Mike Zimmer came along as the head coach in 2014 and drafted Teddy Bridgewater. He lost his lone start in '14 and didn't surface until last month in Denver when he signed as Brock Osweiler's backup while Peyton Manning is out with a plantar fascia injury. But that barely lasted two weeks when the Broncos let him go in the face of a battered secondary and he didn't get on the field.
Cincinnati Bengals host Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium in week 14 of the regular season.
But that's the idea. Teams that are 10-3 like Cincinnati and Denver want them on the field only in case of an emergency. The 6-2, 222-pound Ponder, who has a style similar to Dalton, has thrown 1,057 passes and completed 59.8 percent of his passes for a 75.9 rating with 38 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
There is always wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who quarterbacked the New Jersey all-stars vs. the New York all-stars before he went to Rutgers as a receiver. As every Cincy school kid knows, Sanu is 5-for-5 with a perfect passer rating. Strictly for emergency purposes, but Jackson and Sanu were looking at each other last Sunday.
"Obviously in those times, don't think I wasn't thinking about OK, if he goes down, Mo's going back there," Jackson said. "He just kind of looked at me. He knows. He's ready for any and everything.
"I could have stuck him back there yesterday and said, 'Mo, take off and run or throw it over here.' He's always ready. He's always looking for an opportunity to do more."
SCREEN SAVER: On the play that Andy Dalton got hurt, Jackson is wishing he'd just thrown it away. That would have prevented defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt's interception, which would have prevented Dalton's tackle, which would have prevented the broken thumb.
It was a screen pass to running back Giovani Bernard from the 4 and, like his big screen pickups against Arizona and St. Louis, Jackson thinks he walks in. But Tuitt dove to pluck Dalton's shovel-like pass off the turf.
"I hate to say it, but the defensive end (Tuitt) in my opinion was being lazy," Jackson said. "The tackle is down, and he's 'OK, I'm going to quit rushing' and didn't rush and I think (Dalton) thought he could get that ball past him and that guy's arms are as long as from here to that wall and I don't think he really thought of it that way. It wasn't the same looks we had. It's one of those things. He didn't say uncle, so the ball got picked and it's going the other way."
Jackson also would have loved it if Bernard hit Tuitt as he went out for the pass, but who knew?
"When the guy doesn't rush that hard, in Gio's mind, I'm sure Gio's doing what he's done before," Jackson said. "The guy -- when you watch, it's like the guy's coming upfield and the guy just starts to slow play, so you're Gio and you're turning inside and you can't tell what he's doing from that point. When I say all that, at the end of the day, you've got to throw the ball away. He's got the ball; you don't have to throw it."
NO SOUVENIRS: AJ McCarron couldn't believe it. A.J. Green never celebrates and on his first NFL TD pass, a 66-yarder, he decides to celebrate by punting the ball in the stands. Apparently the team is in contact with the fan about a possible return.
McCarron said the discussion with Green went like this:
"We got to the sideline, I was like, hey, you got that ball? He said, 'I'm so sorry. I asked, 'what happened?' He was like, I punted it.'"
"I didn't get the second one either," McCarron said of the five-yard TD to running back Rex Burkhead. "The referee chunked it over to another one. I was like, that's gone."
Jackson loved how Green played, as evidenced by the boot. It was just two weeks ago that he was getting on Green about not celebrating.
"You saw fire, you saw passion. Kicked the ball. I saw him kick the ball," Jackson said. "There are a lot of great things that happened yesterday . . . I can't sit here and tell you that everything in that game was a negative."
HOT LINE: Apparently some of the Bengals players (Dre Kirkpatrick, Michael Johnson among others) weren't the only ones bothered by the lack of poise on both sides of the ball last Sunday. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called his opposite number in Pittsburgh Monday morning to discuss it, but he wouldn't get into specifics about his conversation with Mike Tomlin.
"It's disappointing for us as a football team. I think neither side wants that. That's not the way it should be," Lewis said at his Monday news conference. "I know our team understands it. I talked to Mike today, and his team understands it. I think we both feel good about things. It's unfortunate that it happened. Mike's addressed it, and we've addressed it . . . Coach Tomlin and I talked today, we're good."
Lewis expressed his displeasure in the postgame with "You talk with your pads, not with your mouth," and he said on Monday his team "understands." NEXT UP:Besides Dalton, the next guy the Bengals can really use back is cornerback Adam Jones, out against the Steelers with a foot injury.
Without Jones and with hobbled slot corner Leon Hall, the Bengals couldn't play their aggressive style of press coverage that allows even some occasional blitzes. The Bengals didn't opt to blitz Roethlisberger in both games this season for fear of the long ball against isolated corners, coming at him a total of nine times on 90 drop backs, according to profootballfocus.com.
On Sunday they blitzed four times out of 42 drops, PFF said, and got pressure 11 times. But, PFF charted Roethlisberger throwing at Jones' man just twice back in the Nov. 1 win in Pittsburgh, when the Bengals DBs got close enough to hold the Steelers to 3-11 on third down as opposed to Sunday's 8-14. And it was pretty much the same metrics with five blitzes and 12 pressures out of 48 drops.
MAC START: Joe Kay of the Associated Press has unearthed a true gem from STATS, a startling number for the school that produced Joe Willie Namath. Sunday in San Francisco McCarron is trying to become the first University of Alabama quarterback to win a game as a starting NFL quarterback in 28 years. The Giants' Jeff Rutledge led New York to a 20-17 victory over the Eagles on Nov. 15, 1987.
But McCarron says he's not playing this one for Alabama.
"I feel like I'm carrying the flag for the Cincinnati Bengals. That's history," McCarron said. "I'm not really worried about history. I'm worried about what we have right now. The team we have and my job at task. I know we have an excellent defense, we take care of the ball it's going to put us in situations to win games. That's my job. When the big plays are there I got to hit them. We got to put points on the board and win ballgames."