Andy Dalton is impassively chasing some big numbers.
The Pittsburgh blitz looms Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), but for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton this could be the first Thursday of OTAs.
But it's not.
In a week of numbers, Thursday is his 28th birthday and he plans to go to dinner with wife Jordan. And, oh yeah, he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month on Thursday with a 111 passer rating.
Plus, there is this matter of leading the 6-0 Bengals into Pittsburgh, the one team that has had one of his very good and, until now, very quiet numbers.
(Dalton is 2-6 against the Steelers. But since he came into the NFL in 2011, he is the fifth winningest quarterback at .664. The only guys ahead of him are future Hall-of-Famers Tom Brady at .779, Peyton Manning at .706, Aaron Rodgers at .697, and Ben Roethlisberger at .671.)
But, as usual when it comes to Dalton, you can't tell what month it is or how the standings stand or what the weekly NFL passer ratings have crunched.
Yes, per offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's suggestions, he has become more of an extrovert around his teammates in the meetings and on Sundays. But, as he pulls off the No. 14 jersey to reveal a T-Shirt from his alma mater of TCU and sits on his stool and checks his phone while chewing the fat with Marvin Jones and AJ McCarron before the next meeting, there is still the air of no-frills unflappability around him.
He just seems to fit in fitting in. But meanwhile, he's sneaking up on you. Ask the fans at TCU. Ask the NFL passer rating calculator. Ask the Sultan of Stat at the Elias Sports Bureau, Santo Labombard.
Going into Sunday's game, Dalton needs one more to have the fourth most touchdown passes of any quarterback in his first five NFL seasons, according to Labombard's chart:
Dan Marino 168; Peyton Manning 138; Matt Ryan 127; Andy Dalton and Jeff Garcia 113.
Dalton may be more Type A this season, but in most moments he prefers no type, so it works out perfectly that on this Thursday his Player of the Month Award has slid directly under the radar of Vontaze Burfict's return to practice. There is no plaque. Or even a gold watch. He will get a framed photo recognizing the feat in the coach's hallway.
But there is no media onslaught, just a few reporters straggling over to his locker, almost apologetically as an afterthought.
No need. Dalton said what he no doubt said two years ago when he got the same award on almost the same day.
"It's nothing I did by myself," Dalton says. "I got it because of the other guys in this locker room. The guys are playing so well."
You can write it down. Dalton is always the same. He's as unshakeable as the numbers, numbers that quietly put him among the best but numbers he doesn't worship.
When it comes to the Holy Trinity of Bengals quarterbacks before their 28th birthdays, Dalton has a higher completion percentage than Ken Anderson, a higher passer rating than Boomer Esiason, and more touchdown passes than Carson Palmer.
(Actually, Dalton becomes the third quarterback in the trinity when he meets Palmer for the second time in Arizona next month. That will be Dalton's 74th Bengals start on the way to rapidly eclipsing Palmer's 97 in Cincinnati.)
"Numbers are going to come," Dalton says. "Things are different now than they were then. The game is different now than it was then. There is no way to compare numbers and all that stuff. There is a lot that goes into it."
* COMPARISONS BEFORE 28TH BIRTHDAY*
Andy Dalton (2011-Oct. 29, 2015): 70 starts at 46-23-1; 16,519 yards on 1,431 completions out of 2,304 passes for 62.1 percent for 113 TDs and 68 INTs and 87.8 passer rating
Ken Anderson (1971-76): 71 starts at 44-27; 13,326 yards on 1,042 completions out of 1,804 passes at 57.8 percent for 88 TDs and 58 INTs and 83.9 passer rating.
Boomer Esiason (1984-1988): 62 starts at 35-27; 14,825 yards on 1,038 completions out of 1,830 passes for 56.7 percent for 88 TDs and 58 INTs and 86.2 passer rating.
Carson Palmer (2003-Dec. 29, 2007): 60 starts at 31-29; 14,583 yards on 1,282 completions out of 2,004 passes for 64.0 percent for 101 TDs and 62 INTs and 89.4 passer rating.
There are two stats, though, that Dalton likes and those are wins and passing efficiency. Wins catch his attention. Again, he catches people by surprise as evidenced by another Elias chart:
Most victories by Super Bowl era quarterbacks in their first five seasons in the NFL:
Matt Ryan 56; Joe Flacco 54; Ben Roethlisberger 51; Tom Brady 48; Andy Dalton, John Elway 46.
"Pretty good company," Dalton says.
And while Dalton should have bigger numbers than the Iconic Three because only Anderson had started more games than him by now (71-70), his four post-season appearances match those combined of Anderson (two), Esiason (one) and Palmer (one) by the time they were 28.
The one stat where Anderson and Esiason have him beat is in passing efficiency. By the time they were 28, Anderson (two) and Esiason (one) had won three NFL passing titles. Heading into his first game at age 28, Dalton, at 116.1, leads the NFL in a raging nerd battle of decimal points over Aaron Rodgers (115.9) and Tom Brady (115.8).
(Talk about a different game. Dalton can break Palmer's club record for passer rating of 101.1 and not win the title. Esiason led the league in 1988 at 97.4 and Anderson went back-to-back in '74 and '75 with 95.7 and 93.9, respectively.)
Yes, Dalton has a passing interest in passer rating.
"The position is all about being efficient," he says. "It's a pure stat of being efficient. You want to complete a lot of balls. You want to throw touchdowns and not turn the ball over. If there's a stat you want have that's good, that's a good one to have. It has a combination of everything."
Efficiency is all about putting the head down and punching the clock. Dalton juggles it all with the same aplomb.
He thought it was cool that Stephen A. Smith was coming in to interview him for ESPN's Countdown show that airs Sunday morning, but it was OK that it was Tom Jackson instead when Smith had flight problems.
It's all the same. Steelers. Seahawks. Ravens. When he was approached this week about sending a text to a little girl who shares his birthday and is a big fan, he cheerily knocked out a few sentences and then asked as earnestly as if he was sending one to Stephen A., "Do you think that's OK?"
It could have been a Thursday in May.
But it's not.