One of the biggest tasks for the Broncos defense Sunday will be to push Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton over the line.
The line between Dalton doing what the Bengals want him to and what he's actually comfortable with in his second year as a starter is the question — no matter how the defense in front of him is aligned.
When he's on, and he was certainly on a year ago in his visit to Denver, he has the capability of dropping 332 passing yards on the Broncos (when Denver held on for a 24-22 victory).
When he's pushes a little too hard, takes a few too many chances, he finds himself in position to make mistakes, along with several of his offensive teammates, in the Bengals' current three-game losing streak.
Dalton has thrown six interceptions in those three losses, though Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was quick to point out that several of those, including all three against the Browns, were not necessarily Dalton's fault.
So, instead of dialing Dalton back to try to stop the losing streak, Lewis said Wednesday he wants Dalton to do a little more.
"We want Andy to take control of the football team, this is his offensive football team, take control ... and let's drive this thing forward," Lewis said. "A year ago everything was new and now he has an understanding of what he needs to do, let's go do it and be great at it."
Dalton's primary target has been wide receiver A.J. Green. And that makes complete sense — any pass thrown within an area code of Green will be caught by him and turned into a play a defense will have to go over on film later.
And quarterbacks always have their favorites, receivers they trust in any situation. That's how the game works, important players are asked to make plays in important times.
But Dalton has targeted Green at least 11 times in five of the Bengals' seven games. In all, 30 percent of Dalton's pass attempts have gone toward Green.
To put that into perspective, the Patriots' Tom Brady and Wes Welker are generally considered the most active pass-catch combination in the league by personnel executives.
Brady has targeted Welker on 25.9 percent of his attempts this season and targeted tight end Rob Gronkowski on 14.3 percent of his attempts this season.
So, defenses have taken to doing whatever it takes to keep the ball away from Green — the Steelers limited him to one catch in Cincinnati's last outing and the Bengals had just 105 passing yards in the game — and force Dalton to either keep trying to jam the ball into Green or go elsewhere.
Too often Dalton has kept trying to go to Green. And in Dalton's second year behind center, defenses have forced him out of his comfort zone.
That's what defenses do and that's what the Broncos will do, likely with 11-time Pro Bowl selection Champ Bailey in the mix, if not directly across from Green no matter where Green lines up in the formation.
When Dalton was asked Wednesday how he needs to adjust when defenses want him to go elsewhere with the ball, he said;
"We still have to find ways to get (Green) the ball," and when asked about how Green would approach a potential match-up with Bailey, Dalton added; "I know A.J.'s looking forward to it, it'll be a good test for him to play against a guy like that,. I'd put A.J. against anybody."
And just how well the Broncos fare in that task will go a long way in determining if they put together their first three-game winning streak of the season.