The understated toughness of Bengals QB Andy Dalton

INDIANAPOLIS — Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton probably won’t say it, so his teammates will say it for him.

He’s tougher than anyone might think, and he probably would be the last one to voice that opinion.

Dalton isn’t one to publicly complain, so he was clearly upset on Sunday night following the Bengals’ win against the Colts. His relaxed demeanor and smile at the podium hid most of it, just like his jacket hid the sleeve that went from his forearm to his elbow.

According to the Bengals’ radio broadcast, Dalton had been icing his triceps on his non-throwing arm after the game, the result of many shots he took throughout the day. He had also been hit in the head more than once during the game, and there was one incident he was particularly irritated about.

On an incomplete pass midway through the third quarter, a Colts defender brushed Dalton’s helmet hard enough to yank his head around. Dalton was mad enough after the play that he quickly walked over to an official and yelled that he had gotten hit in the head, pointing at his helmet as he tried to make his case. He was denied.

“To get hit in the head, pretty obviously, if he’s supposed to be looking at me and that wasn’t called. You know you just kind of have to deal with it,” he said.

He added: “I thought it was pretty clear that I got hit in the head, but I guess he missed it.”

There’s likely only one reason he said anything, and that’s because multiple Bengals players said they felt there was a difference in how officials treated Dalton and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

Out of 15 penalties among both teams, three were for hits on Luck. Bengals safety Shawn Williams was ejected for unnecessary roughness for a flagrant hit to Luck’s helmet, and Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was flagged twice for roughing the passer.

Now in his eighth season, Dalton has missed only three regular-season games in his career. All three came in 2015 after Dalton suffered a broken thumb while trying to make a tackle following an interception.

To lose Dalton in that way didn’t sit well with the rest of the team, and prior to the next season, then-Bengals cornerback Adam Jones went on a radio show and said it had been made clear that Dalton’s tackling days were over.

Whether Jones was half-serious or joking didn’t matter, because it clearly wasn’t going to stop Dalton. Last year, he ran down 270-pound Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to stop him after he picked up a fumble by John Ross.

He was at it again on Sunday when he awkwardly tackled Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II to stop an interception from turning into a pick-six. Dalton had been picked off after getting hit in the arm by Colts defensive tackle Al Woods.

His tackle ultimately made sure the Colts got nothing out of the play, because Bengals linebacker Preston Brown intercepted Luck on the next series. It was enough of a game-changer that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis immediately pointed out Dalton’s play in his opening statement.

“I think in that moment I was the last guy and it turned out to be a big play in the game, so you never how those plays matter, and this one made a big difference,” Dalton said.

The tackle was only one reason Dalton was bruised after the game. He took a shot when running for a first down when he could have chosen to slide instead. He later called it a “dumb” decision.

“There was no reason to take a hit,” he said.

Dalton might lament those decisions later, and he might not get the calls he wants, but he’s not going to change how he plays. It's just not in his nature.

When Dalton was asked one more time about his touchdown-saving tackle, he just grinned.

“Just laying the hammer,” he said.