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Hue Jackson says offseason booing was turning point for Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton has played like an elite quarterback while helping lead the Bengals to an undefeated start, and Hue Jackson thinks he knows why.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest stories through the first quarter of this NFL season has not only been the 4-0 Bengals, but the red-hot play of the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton.

Now in his fifth NFL season, Dalton has looked like a different quarterback than what he'd shown in his first four seasons. That's not to say Dalton hasn't shown flashes of greatness in the past four years, as evidenced by his AFC Player of the Month award in October of 2013, he has. But now, he's better than ever.

Even last year, Dalton had arguably his best game as a pro in Week 11 in a road win over the Saints. His 143.9 passer rating that day remains his best in 68 games as a pro. However, it came in the midst of a 19-touchdown, 17-interception season that saw him post career lows in passing scores (19), passing yards (3,398) and yards per completion (11.0) while having a career-high interception percentage (3.5%).

Oh, and he failed to win a playoff game in his fourth try as a pro, and by the time he made it to the 2015 Pro Bowl as an alternate, fans had seen enough. Following Dalton's 9-of-20 performance for 69 yards and zero touchdowns, fans booed him mercifully off the field as the Pro Bowl game ended.

The fan vitriol would sadly continue at a charity softball game during the offseason, in which Dalton was booed as he was introduced to start off the game and again when he came up to bat. That's what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson believes was the turning point for Dalton's fifth-year surge. "I truly believe that was a turning point for Andy," Peter King of the MMQB reported.

"I’m not going to tell you it didn’t bother him," said Jackson. "It did. When you have the success he has had—four seasons in the league, four times in the playoffs—getting booed in your own city, that has to hurt a bit. But he was able to hit one over the fence for a home run. And he flipped the bat. His message was sort of, You might not like me now, but you’re going to love me later."

Fast forward to Week 5 of the 2015 season. Dalton enters this week's matchup with the Seahawks on pace for career highs in nearly every passing category. Per EPSN's projections, Dalton is on pace to complete 312 of 464 passes for 4,748 yards (67.2%) with 36 touchdowns vs just four interceptions. That would be Dalton's best yardage, touchdown,  completion percentage, and interception mark to date.

Adding to that, Dalton is also on pace for career bests in touchdown percentage (7.8%), interception percentage (0.9%), yards per passing attempt (10.2), yards per completion, (15.2), yards per game (296.8), passer rating (123.0), and total QBR (87.71). His passer rating would be 34.2 points higher than his previous best of 88.8, and his QBR would be 30.9 points better than his previous high of 56.81.

This past week in a win over the Chiefs, Dalton completed 17 of 24 passes (71%) for 321 yards and one score with no turnovers. 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.

Regardless of what's led to Dalton's improved play, you cannot deny he's playing like an elite quarterback. He'll need to keep that up though if the Bengals are to remain undefeated past this weekend and get a win over the Seahawks.