Another Bengals win came thanks in large part to another consecutive, great game by quarterback Andy Dalton.
It seems fitting that Cincinnati is off to a franchise-best 6-0 start as Dalton just completed his best six-game stretch as an NFL quarterback. In the Bengals' 34-21 win over the Bills, Dalton completed 23 of 33 passes for 243 yards and three scores with no sacks or turnovers.
"It’s huge," Dalton said of his team's 6-0 start. "I mean you look at the schedule and you see the start week and the bye and this is exactly what you want to be going undefeated into the bye. You want to win every game that you play so we just have to keep it going. We can’t look back to what we have done, we have to keep doing exactly what we have been doing and keep pushing to be the best we can be."
Dalton is now up to 16 total touchdowns (14 passing, 2 rushing) vs three turnovers through his first six games, which is only the second time in his five-year career he's accounted for that many scores over a six-game stretch. That's also tied for the fewest amount of turnovers he's ever had in a six-game stretch (had three over a six-game stretch twice before).
Running back Giovani Bernard praised Dalton for how he's taken a stronger leadership role this season as he's led the Bengals to an improbable 6-0 start.
"We have just been really following Andy’s lead this entire season," Bernard said of Dalton. "He has really been doing a great job leading us. He showed a lot of grit out there even last week. That was big for us, then coming in here and doing what we did is a huge thing for this organization."
While Bernard wouldn't go as far as to say Dalton looks different, it is clear the quarterback looks more comfortable, which is making everyone on the Bengals' offense more comfortable.
"I wouldn’t say I see a different one." Bernard said. "I feel I see a more comfortable one. He’s out there just making plays and distributing the ball. He has really done a great job this entire season not forcing anything. He has really done a great job and we’re just following his lead."
The Bengals' hot start has Cincinnatians reminiscing of that 1988 team that was led by MVP Boomer Esiason en route to a Super bowl appearance.
14 TD passes for Andy Dalton this season, 2nd most through the first 6 games of a season by a Bengals QB (Boomer Esiason had 15 in 1988)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 18, 2015
What's most impressive about Dalton's hot start is his 118.8 passer rating at Buffalo marks the fifth time he's had a 100-plus QB rating this season. His previous season totals for such games are four in 2011, six in 2012, six in 2013, and four in 2014. With more than half a season left, Dalton has already almost hit his career-mark in the category. It's also the only time in Dalton's career he's recorded a QBR of100-plus in five of six games.
A big reason for those high passer ratings is Dalton has only three turnovers this season, and that's mainly due to him being more willing to take what the defense gives him and not force anything. Dalton had several chances in Buffalo to try and force a pass like he would have in year's past, but he opted to throw it away and live to fight another down.
That was really evident with A.J. Green, who had just one catch for five yards in the first half. Dalton never looked to force it to Green though, instead looking to other receivers or simply throwing it out of bounds if need be. Having so many weapons is what Dalton keeps pointing to when asked why his offense looks so good this season.
"This is the first time we have had everyone here with Hue [Jackson] it was a lot of the same guys that are contributing," Dalton said. "But it is nice to have all of the different guys that we have that can play a big part in the game so we feel really good about where we are at."
The Week 6 win over Buffalo was also Dalton's 22nd road win of his career thus far. Of NFL quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era, Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan rank first in winning 23 road games in their first five seasons. If Dalton can win one more this year, he'll join them, and possibly pass them soon after.
Is all of this enough to put Dalton in the 'elite' tier of NFL quarterbacks?
Maybe not yet, but you can't deny the fact that he's playing elite, and when he does, this Bengals team is very hard, and maybe impossible to beat.