Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider had serious thoughts about picking Andy Dalton in the first round of the 2011 draft, yet they decided to go in another direction.
The way Dalton has performed, and with Seattle's starting quarterback dealing with an injury, the Seahawks might be regretting that decision.
Coming off a bye week, Dalton and the Bengals will try to win four straight for the first time in two seasons Sunday when they visit the Seahawks, who look to bounce back from a woeful offensive performance with Tarvaris Jackson likely to return.
Selecting 25th in the draft after winning their first NFC West title in three years, the Seahawks took Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter with their first pick in April.
Dalton, though, was also on the team's radar after a spectacular career at TCU where he won a school-record 42 games.
"We thought he was a great player. I really liked him," Carroll said during Wednesday's teleconference with Cincinnati media. "John Schneider and I went into tremendous depth and had no question he was going to play and be good. I'm not surprised at all (by his success)."
Dalton, the third pick in the second round, isn't either. If fact, he's embraced the criticism that came after the Carson Palmer-led Bengals finished 4-12 in 2010.
"Coming into the season, we weren't getting much credit,' said Dalton, who has completed 62.4 percent of his throws and has an 84.3 passer rating. "As a team, we have the attitude that we're going to go out and prove everyone wrong. We've played well, and we've been in every game we've played.'
While Dalton and first-round pick A.J. Green - who leads the Bengals (4-2) with 29 receptions, 453 receiving yards and four TDs - continue to develop as one of the league's top young quarterback-wide receiver combinations, it's been the team's second-ranked defense that has lifted it into a tie for second in the AFC North.
Cincinnati is yielding 278.5 yards per game and hasn't allowed more than 24 points in any contest.
"I feel we can be as good as we want to be,' defensive end Carlos Dunlap said after returning a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown with 2:22 left in a 27-17 victory over Indianapolis on Oct. 16. "We've got the guys in place to go as far as we want to go.'
The Seahawks (2-4) are not quite as confident as they look to rebound from a 6-3 loss at Cleveland last Sunday. With Jackson sidelined with a pectoral injury and leading rusher Marshawn Lynch out with back spasms, Charlie Whitehurst completed 12 of 30 passes for 97 yards as Seattle went 2 for 12 on third downs and managed a season-worst 137 yards.
"We never got going,' said Carroll, whose team is 31st in total offense (262.8 yards per game) and averaging just 16.2 points.
Jackson, who has six TDs and five interceptions, completed his most extensive day of practice Friday and appears likely to return for this game.
Lynch also appears good to go after taking reps Wednesday and doing some running to the side.
The Bengals will have to make do without leading rusher Cedric Benson as he serves a one-game suspension from the league stemming from his misdemeanor assault cases settled before the season.
Without Benson - fifth in the NFL with 117 carries - backup Bernard Scott is expected to make his third career start after carrying a season-high 11 times against the Colts.
Halfback Brian Leonard and fullback Cedric Peerman will also see action out of the Bengals' backfield.
"We'll try a little bit different things here, but we're going to be similar in how we attack,' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "If that means opening up formations a little bit to do it, we'll try that. We're not going to stop running the ball because they're good.'
So is Seattle's rush defense, which is ranked first in the league with 3.1 yards per carry.
The Bengals, who last won four straight from Sept. 20-Oct. 11, 2009, have dropped three straight in Seattle since a 20-17 overtime victory Nov. 6, 1994.
The Associated Press News Service
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