It is hard to get too excited about Andy Dalton’s performance in Sunday’s 24-23 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts, even if it was his 30th birthday.
True, Dalton finished with 17 completions in 29 attempts for 243 yards and two touchdowns, good for an overall rating of 108.8. But take away the 67-yard scamper by Joe Mixon on a short screen pass and Dalton’s day was much more pedestrian.
The important thing, though, is that the Cincinnati Bengals came away with a victory in Dalton’s 100th career start, and visions of greater things are still dancing in their heads.
"You’ve got to win by one, and we were able to do that," Dalton said after the game. "We’ll be able to look at the tape and see what we’ve got to do better. At the end of the day, we got a win, and that’s all that matters."
There are a lot of things that Cincinnati must do better if it hopes to put itself in a position to compete for a playoff berth, such as improve its offensive line play (duh!), figure out a way to stop the run up the middle, cover tight ends over the seam, etc.
And while Dalton has plenty of work to do himself, such as regain the touch on the long ball that he appeared to find two years ago, and show more composure under fire, he is making progress. Sunday, he stood in the pocket and absorbed a ferocious hit just as he unleashed a 25-yard scoring strike in the end zone to rookie Josh Malone.
"We’ve got a lot in front of us," Dalton said, "and we have to use this as momentum to keep it going and find ways to win. If we do that, we’ll put ourselves right back in this thing."
The victory marked the 59th victory of his career for Dalton, which ties him with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning for the seventh-most wins over that period. Manning and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers notched 60 wins before turning 30, and Russell Wilson already has 60 wins at only 28-years old. Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leads the way with 80 wins before he reached his 30th birthday.
Dalton is now one touchdown pass behind Carson Palmer for the third-most touchdown passes in Bengals’ history with 153. Manning threw 156 touchdown passes before his 30th birthday; Rivers notched 155 and Palmer tossed 160 scoring strikes before he turned 30 years old. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers notched 222 touchdown passes before his 100th start.
Among active quarterbacks, Dalton currently ranks eighth in victories before their 30th birthdays as well their 100th starts.
The Red Rifle still has a ways to go to surpass Boomer Esiason and move into the second position in franchise history. Esiason accounted for 187 touchdown passes during his time in Cincinnati, while Kenny Anderson holds the all-time Bengals’ mark with 197. Both records are in range if Dalton stays healthy and maintains his current pace.
But, as Dalton said, it is the wins that are most important statistic, and he has won more games than any other Bengals’ quarterback, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He is only the third quarterback to start at least 100 games for Cincinnati and joins Anderson and Esiason in that exclusive club.