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Dalton entering rarified air with recent hot streak

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is not only on the best run of his young career, he’s riding the best stretch in franchise history.

With a career-high five touchdown passes Sunday in a 49-9 victory against the New York Jets, Dalton became the first Bengals quarterback to throw 11 in a span of three games. In fact, no other quarterback has thrown 10.

Boomer Esiason, Jeff Blake, Jon Kita and Carson Palmer each had three-game stretches with nine TDs, with Palmer doing it four times.

“I feel like I’m playing pretty well right now, and I just have to keep it going,” said Dalton, who has led the 6-2 Bengals to four consecutive wins to give them a 2 ½ game lead in the AFC North.

“I’ve got to keep putting this team and this offense in a good position to win games,” Dalton added. “If I can do that, I think we’ll have a good chance to win a lot of them.”

Dalton also has topped 300 yards in each of the last three games, making him only the second in Bengals history to achieve that.

The only other QB in franchise history to accomplish the feat was Ken Anderson, who did it against Denver (323), Kansas City (310) and, ironically, the New York Jets (316) during the first three games in 1984.

Dalton has thrown for 337 at Buffalo, 372 at Detroit and 325 against the Jets for a total of 1,034, which also is a franchise record for a three-game span, topping the 1,027 Boomer Esiason posted in 1987.

“He just keeps playing and being Andy, and that’s what he’s got to keep doing,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s got to allow the plays to develop. He’s doing a great job in working through his progressions. He’s doing a great job of getting in and out of the correct plays in the run game, and getting us in passes, getting us in runs. That’s what you have to do.”

In addition to the yards and touchdowns, Dalton has been completing a high percentage of his passes (65.6) and avoiding the big mistakes with just two interceptions during the last three games.

All of those stats factor into the passer rating, and with Sunday’s performance Dalton’s climbed to 87.1 for his career. It’s a number that also makes him the Bengals franchise leader in that category for players with at least 500 attempts, surpassing Palmer’s mark of 86.9

Pretty impressive for a guy who a little more than a month ago was hearing questions about whether he’s the right quarterback to take the Bengals to the next level.

“I’ve always had faith in him,” wide receiver A.J. Green said. “We all felt like he was going to take us to the next level, and he’s showing that now. That’s one guy who I don’t think feeds into all of that other stuff.”

Dalton had gone 16 games without a 300-yard performance before starting his current three-game run that had him ranked fourth in passing yards among NFL quarterbacks heading into Monday night’s game.

Dalton also ranks in the NFL’s top 10 in attempts (ninth), completions (tied for sixth), completion percentage (eighth), touchdowns (tied for fourth) and average gain (sixth).

But despite the spike in performance, Dalton echoed his head coach by saying he’s still the same quarterback.

“I don’t think there’s really anything that’s changed in me,” Dalton said. “I feel like I’m playing with a lot of confidence, and our guys are doing the same thing. That’s been big for us. We know what we’re doing out there, and they’re in the right spots, and they’re making plays. That’s kind of what it comes down to.”

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