Andy Dalton continued his near-flawless performance this season by trouncing the Chiefs, 36-21. For highlights and analysis of his play in that game, watch the following video:
Dalton was 17/24, for 321 yards passing, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. He also rushed three times for 16 yards. His QB rating was 127.1 and his QBR 95.3, both his best in what has been a stellar season so far.
His numbers against Kansas City do not really do Dalton justice. Running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard combined for four rushing touchdowns after Dalton put them in position to score. Furthermore, Dalton must be applauded for avoiding being sacked by Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and the rest of the Chiefs' pass rushers. When pressured, Dalton was exceptionally nimble. Two particular plays stand out. One was a 27 yard completion to running back Rex Burkhead after Dalton was chased out of the pocket by linebacker Ramik Wilson. The other was a strike to receiver Brandon Tate thrown on the run, Dalton's only touchdown of the game. Let's take a look at what happened on that play:
1) It was 3rd and 11 with 8:55 left in the third quarter. The Bengals were leading 14-12. Dalton noticed cornerback Marcus Peters had his head turned away from Tate and that the safeties were focused on A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Mohamed Sanu.
2) Eifert and Bernard rolled out to provide Dalton with the option of dumping off the ball, hoping to turn a short gain into a first down. Without them blocking, Dalton felt the pressure shortly after snapping the ball.
3. Dalton bought himself time with his feet, rolling to his right. He kept his eyes on Eifert and even pump-faked. But he did not intend on throwing a short pass, as he knew he had a potential home run.
4. Dalton's eyes and the pump-fake kept Chiefs defenders focused on Eifert and prevented them from shadowing Tate.
5. Dalton waited until the very last second to release the ball on the run. Just as the Kansas City pass rushers were within striking distance, he fired an absolute dart to Tate, who then made a great diving catch and rolled into the endzone.
Dalton and the Bengals will face their greatest challenge yet when the Seattle Seahawks come to Cincinnati for a Week 5 showdown. The two-time NFC champs struggled their first two games of the season without safety Kam Chancellor, but appear to be back on track after a convincing victory over the Bears in Week 3 and a narrow win over the Lions on Monday night. Dalton will not be able to fire downfield as often against the likes of cornerback Richard Sherman, strong safety Kam Chancellor and free safety Earl Thomas. So don't expect him to get 13.4 yards per attempt (as he did against the Chiefs). The good news for Dalton and the Bengals is that Hill appears to be returning to form. While he only had nine carries against Kansas City, his three rushing touchdowns clearly gave him added confidence. You can expect Cincinnati's offense to focus on grinding out a win on the ground instead of trying to light up Seattle's illustrious secondary. Dalton's job will be to play efficient, turnover-free football and continue his outstanding play on third down.
Upward. It seems as if Dalton improves every game. He demonstrated in the Ravens game that he has no fear, going after Baltimore's secondary time and time again late in the game. But against the Chiefs, Dalton had no reason to make big plays late in the game simply because he played essentially perfect football and prevented Kansas City from ever getting close. Through a quarter of the season, Dalton looks like both an MVP candidate and the most-improved player in the NFL.