A good tight end can become a quarterback's best friend.
That's been the case with Tyler Eifert this season as he and Andy Dalton have hooked up for the most touchdowns by any quarterback and pass-catcher duo. No one has caught more touchdowns than Eifert's nine, and only two quarterbacks have thrown more scores than Dalton's 18.
Dalton doesn't hide the fact that Eifert being such a versatile weapon and so hard to defend has made life easier for him and the rest of the Bengals' offense.
"He’s (Eifert) just got such a great feel and understands how to get open, use leverages, come out of breaks and different things," Dalton said after Thursday's game. "That’s what’s so big. He scored touchdowns on three different types of plays. He’s a big body that can go up and make tough catches. There’s not much he can’t do."
Eifert finished the game with five grabs for 53 yards and three scores. However, one of his scores wasn't meant for him. It happened in the second quarter when Dalton was scrambling at the goal line and fired a pass toward the back of the end zone that was intended for rookie offensive tackle Jake Fisher; but Fisher was well covered and Eifert reached up and grabbed the ball.
"They were both open (laughs). I really was. I was throwing it to Jake Fisher in the back of the end zone, and Tyler made a great play," Dalton admitted on the NFL Network's postgame show. If you take a look back at the play, Fisher wasn't really open.
Eifert said he was simply reading Dalton's eyes and jumped up to make the grab and give the Bengals a 14-3 lead.
His third touchdown would come in the fourth quarter as he gave Cincinnati a 31-10 lead and effectively put the game out of reach for the Browns.
It's rare any player catches three touchdowns in a game, let alone a tight end, but at this point, nothing Eifert does surprises Dalton.
"He’s so good and has such a great feel for getting open," Dalton said. "I’m happy for him. To come back from the injury last year and to get him playing, and playing really well and playing at a high level, it’s been a lot of fun to see him out there. He definitely helps this team win."
With his three scores Thursday night, Eifert is now tied with former Bengals great Bob Trumpy for the most touchdown grabs by a tight end in a single season. Trumpy set the record way back in 1969 with nine scores in 14 games. Eifert already has reached that mark through eight games, and there's little doubt he'll break it.
Eifert is also on pace for 74 catches and 868 yards this season. That would break Dan Ross' single-season marks of 70 catches and 910 yards by a tight end.
But the most impressive stat is how Eifert is on pace to finish this season with 18 touchdowns. That would be a Bengals franchise record for most touchdown catches by any position in one season. Only four players in NFL history have caught that many scores: Mark Clayton (18), Sterling Sharpe (18), Jerry Rice (22), and Randy Moss (23).
That would be elite company to be part of, but Eifert will let the media decide how good he really is.
"I’ll let you guys worry about where I rank," Eifert told the media after Thursday's game. "It doesn’t matter. For me, it’s about how I can be the best tight end to help this team win. I can’t control how many balls I get thrown or anything like that, but I can put myself in the best position by studying the opponent, understanding our game plan and being able to be moved around the field to help us win games and make it hard on opponents."