Andy Dalton simply looks like the NFL's most improved quarter through the first four weeks of the NFL season.
Regardless of what your opinion of Dalton was coming into this season, you cannot deny he looks like a different quarterback than what he was in his first four seasons. His first three games were easily the best start to his career, and he continued that with another great performance against the Chiefs.
Dalton finished this game completing 17 of 24 passes (71 percent) for 321 yards and one score with no turnovers. He also picked up a couple of key first downs on his 16 yards rushing in what was another big performance that helped keep Cincinnati undefeated. After last week's 381-yard performance, this is the first two-game stretch in which Dalton has broken the 300-yard mark since October of 2013.
Like the Bengals' 2013 squad, this year's Bengals team has so many weapons for Dalton to throw to that he'll have big games every week with different pass-catchers stepping up.
"We have a number of players that contribute," Dalton said following the win. "In Week 1, it was Tyler (Eifert). A different week, it was A.J. (Green). Different guys are always getting involved and making plays. You never know who it will be each week. That is the mentality we have."
Speaking of Eifert, he had another solid day with three grabs for 69 yards, and he had nothing but praise for Dalton following the win.
"He’s playing awesome right now," Eifert said. "As an offense, that’s what we see every day in practice. That’s what we expect from him as our leader and quarterback. He works hard. We’ve got to keep going, not get complacent and just be happy with where we’re at, but keep working hard moving forward."
Dalton has also become far better at avoiding bad plays and turnovers. He has just one interception through his first four games, the second straight season he's accomplished that feat. The difference is, last year, Dalton threw nine interceptions before he reached nine touchdown throws.
Through four games, Dalton has thrown nine touchdowns vs just one interception while rushing for a score as well. He is also completing what would be a career-high 67-percent of his passes, if he finishes the season with that mark.
It's also not through a series of short passes with little-to-no risk that Dalton is achieving these marks. Dalton is often firing deep for his guys and making accurate throws for big yardage. His 10.3 yards per attempt this season would be a Bengals franchise record, and his 13.4 ypa against the Chiefs was a career-high.
Still, Dalton was more focused on praising the defense following the win for never letting Kansas City get into the endzone, as well as his offensive line for keeping him clean.
"The Chiefs have one of the best pass-rushers on the league in Justin Houston," Dalton said. "Our offensive line answered. They contained him well. The result was that I didn’t get hit much today."
"We scored touchdowns, and our defense held them to field goals. That equation ended up being the difference today. Our defense played well. Getting stops and making them kick field goals was key in today’s final outcome."
With a great offensive line that consistently paves the way for two stud running backs, this offense is certainly built to win without Dalton having big games. That said, there are going to be entire contests and moments in games when Dalton has to step up and makes plays for the offense to succeed.
Not only is he doing that this year, but Dalton is also showing he can carry this offense to wins, something he's never been able to consistently do in his first four seasons. It's also what makes this Bengals team arguably the most balanced we've seen since the 1988 Super Bowl squad.