If anyone knows how bad that 2.0 passer rating Andy Dalton unfurled last week against Cleveland is, it is Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. But Zampese isn't straying from his weekly approach to get Dalton ready for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in New Orleans.
"We don't need to talk to Dr. Phil or anybody," Zampese said after Thursday's practice. "The guys that are going to fix it are in this building and those are the guys I've talked to and that's what's important."
Dalton's mettle is on the line in New Orleans. He earned the big contract back in August with his poise and resiliency as much as anything. The ability to compartmentalize is how they put it when "Andy 2.0," moves past a bad outing or play and wins the next down or game.
After the five games Dalton has dipped below a 60.0 passer rating and went into games that count, the Bengals are 3-2. Zampese is confident he'll play well.
"He'll do it again. This will be a good game," Zampese said. "Any time you get kicked in the groin there is a certain re-set that happens in your mind. On how you go about things as a group. You have confidence as a group you're going to bounce back because you know you have higher expectations for yourself."
The first signs of the week have been good because on Wednesday Dalton greeted the press like he usually does. Polite. Measured. Succinct. His brand is bland and you might have thought it was two weeks ago, when he was coming off engineering a fourth-quarter victory over Baltimore.
He's not calling any help lines, either. The advice he's received has been in-house.
Two weeks ago, Dalton and Zampese were clicking. He had his team back in first place and while his touchdowns were down he was on pace for career highs in yards per attempt, passer rating, completion percentage, and interception percentage.
"That's not the kind of player I am, not the kind of offense we are, not the kind of team we are to put that showing out there," Dalton said of what he's hearing after Thursday. "You can't lose any confidence. You can't all of a sudden panic or anything. There's been a lot of good things that have gone on for this team. So hold onto that kind of stuff, because you've still got to have a lot of confidence. That's the best thing you can do out on the field because that's contagious."
Zampese remembers when the Bengals went to New England last month, where Tom Brady was coming off getting blown out and hearing he was on the verge of getting traded or benched or both,
"He's been pretty good since," Zampese said. "I think there's a cleansing that happens with those things and the real guys stand up afterwards and play very, very well. That's what we're looking for this week. It's more about where we are and where we're going. We know we've had a certain amount of success in the past, but that doesn't help us this week. What are we going to do about the situation now?"
Even during the draft process Zampese admired Dalton's makeup on film, a sort of bullet-proof demeanor against all elements. That's the challenge he sees this week.
"The mental toughness to take a group of men farther than they ever thought they could be taken and have the wherewithal to weather the storms," Zampese said. "Not every play is going to work. It's how you handle the response as a group, not as an individual thing."
There was no compartmentalizing or moving on in the film room. Zampese showed all of Thursday on Monday.
"You go over every inch of it or else you're fooling yourself," Zampese said. "You need to see how things happened and then talk about it. How we're going to make sure it doesn't happen again. It doesn't feel good. But it's a process you have to go through to have your mind come out right so you understand how we're going to deal with it and how we need to fix it."
They are talking about fixing it with a fast start. Zampese doesn't want to hear about mechanics as the sole reason for him completing 30 percent of his passes.
"I don't think any of that had anything to do with it," he said. "We just got off center and couldn't get back on fast enough."
INJURY UPDATE: Winter has hit the AFC North race, but not two starters, WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict and running back Giovani Bernard.
As the Bengals prepared for Sunday's game against the Saints (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) they were greeted at Thursday's practice by snow flurries and a wind chill that made it feel like 21 degrees. Bernard went to the rehab field for the second straight day as he nurses his hip and shoulder injuries, indicating he won't play Sunday. Burfict (knee) didn't surface on the field, so he'll likely miss his third straight game since he had arthroscopic surgery.
Starting cornerback Terence Newman (knee) didn't work for the second straight day and starting right tackle Andre Smith (ankle) didn't work after being limited Wednesday. He was wearing a boot before Thursday's practice. Three players that didn't work Wednesday went full Thursday in tight end Jermaine Gresham (thigh), safety Taylor Mays (foot) and backup guard Mike Pollak (knee). Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) had his veteran's day off while cornerback Leon Hall (concussion) went full for the second straight day.