AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton has been on the run more than ever, one of the easy-to-overlook developments in his breakthrough season.
Not only has the Bengals quarterback been among the NFL’s passing leaders all season, he’s gotten a better knack for taking off to avoid a heavy rush. Dalton tied his career high with eight runs during a 34-31 loss at Arizona on Sunday night.
The Bengals (8-2) will need him to be mobile again on Sunday when they host the St. Louis Rams (4-6), who are fourth in the league with 30 sacks.
“I think it’s just part of it,” Dalton said. “I’ve made some big plays when I’ve gotten out of the pocket. I’ve been able to run for some first downs and different things. It’s not always going to happen exactly how you draw it up.
“It’s kind of backyard football at that point. If I can scramble and get good yardage, I will.”
He’s doing it more than ever. Dalton has run 51 times this season, only 10 shy of his career high for a season with six games left.
Some of the runs are by design. Others are improvised. Either way, it’s given the Bengals’ balanced offense another threat.
“I think he’s gotten more comfortable with that and gotten better at it,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “I think it’s a trait that will really help him go the next level if he can continue to get better at it.
“I think he does all the other things so well. If he has the ability to extend plays like he did the other night, that makes us pretty special.”
Dalton has been good at avoiding hits while extending plays. The Bengals would like to do better at completing passes off Dalton’s scrambles instead of having him tuck it in so often. Bengals coaches said the receivers could have done a better job of getting open while Dalton scrambled on Sunday night.
“There are times every now and then when guys think the quarterback is looking in a different spot,” offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. “All of a sudden maybe you don’t run as fast as you can. I think our players understand it, and we talk about it all the time. Anybody can get the ball on any given play.”
Whitworth noted that the NFL’s elite quarterbacks all have a skill for making something happen when a play breaks down, and Dalton has done that more in his fifth season.
“All the great ones have to have that ability eventually,” Whitworth said. “So that’s really huge for us. The more he can do that, the better we will be.”
NOTES: Offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was activated Friday. The Bengals drafted him in the first round out of Texas A&M even though he was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery suffered in a bowl game. Ogbuehi started the season on an injury list. He gets to practice with the team daily now to help his development and would be available in case of injuries to other linemen. … CB Darqueze Dennard was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder separation suffered during the loss on Sunday night.