Quarterback Andy Dalton put on another clinic Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium when he hit his first 10 passes, generated seven completions of at least 20 yards, and set up three rushing touchdowns by running back Jeremy Hill as the Bengals soared to 4-0 for the first time in 10 years with a 36-21 victory over the Chiefs before 57,498 of the faithful.
And yes. That means two up on the Steelers and three up on the Ravens.
For the fourth straight game Dalton hit triple digits in passer rating in spectacular fashion. While completing 17 of 24 passes, he averaged 13.4 yards per attempt while racking up 321 yards and a 127.1 passer rating.
The Bengals put it away with five minutes left when on third-and-one Dalton turned a play-action fake into tight end Tyler Eifert's 30-yard catch on a throw-back pass to the 7 and Hill and Bernard did the rest. Bernard, who also had a rushing touchdown, motored for six yards on an option pitch, and Hill went flying over the pile from one yard out to make 36-18 with 4:50 left.
The Bengals flexed their muscles on both sides of the red zone. Cincinnati held the Chiefs to seven field goals by Caioro Santos while the offense hammered in all four of their chances as left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith blanked the Chiefs' sack tandem of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as the Bengals didn't allow a sack for the third game.
The Bengals defense, stinging from giving up some big plays early, came up big late in the third quarter when their pass rush kept coming while they were holding on to a 21-15 lead.
Cincinnati Bengals host the Kansas City Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium week 4 of the regular season.
Pressure forced Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith to be called for intentional grounding on first down from his 37 and then defensive tackle Geno Atkins blew up the middle for a sack. That set up third and 30 from the Chiefs 17 and when Smith checked down to tight end Travis Kelce, right end Michael Johnson punched the ball out of his hands as he was getting tackled and safety Reggie Nelson scooped it up for a 25-yard return that put the Bengals at the Chiefs 5.
One snap later Hill went left, ran out of strong safety Ron Parker's tackle, and then ran over free safety Eric Berry at the goal line for his second touchdown of the game.
Hill, who had struggled the past two weeks, got the call again on the two-point conversion from the 1.5-yard line after the Chiefs were called for holding Eifert in the end zone on the original two-point play and the Bengals responded with their jumbo package of nose tackle Domata Peko at fullback and rookie Jake Fisher as the left tackle. Hill went right up the middle, got stopped, but he kept moving his legs and lunged the ball over the goal line and the Bengals won the challenge to make it 29-15 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter as Hill finished with 40 yards on nine carries.
Dalton's red-hot hand overcame a mass of penalties in the third quarter. Right guard Kevin Zeitler got hit with back-to-back holding calls and after wide receiver Marvin Jones dropped a bomb on the five-yard line when he let the pass bounce off his shoulder pad, Jones then false started giving the Bengals a third-and-11.
Jones got replaced by backup wide receiver Brandon Tate on the next snap and Tate saved quite a moment for his first catch of the season. With Dalton throwing on the run to his right, Tate double moved rookie cornerback Marcus Peters down the right sideline and Tate made a diving catch at the eight-yard line and got back up untouched to complete a 55-yard touchdown that was the longest catch of his five seasons and 68 games with the Bengals.
That made it 21-12 with 8:43 left in the third quarter, but the Chiefs kept coming back.
The Bengals secondary took some big shots in the second half with slot corner Leon Hall already making his first NFL start at safety in place of the injured George Iloka. Cornerback Adam Jones had to leave with groin and elbow problems early in the third quarter and the other starter, Dre Kirkpatrick, was playing with a right wrist injury.
Alex Smith wasted no time finding Jones' replacement in the middle of the third quarter and even though Darqueze Dennard had good coverage, Smith floated a perfect 33-yard completion down the left sideline to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, giving Maclin 130 yards on eight catches at that point on his way 148 yards on 11 catches.
The Bengals again stiffened when former Chiefs defensive end Wallace Gilberry staked out a reverse to wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas and racked up an eight-yard loss that translated into Santos' fifth field goal, a 41-yarder that made it 21-15 with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
Dalton literally picked up where he left off Sunday when he hit his first 10 passes for 179 yards and he needed every one of them because the Bengals defense had no answer for Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles as the Chiefs scored the last nine points of the half to cut Cincinnati's lead to 14-12 at halftime lead.
Dalton, finishing the half 10 of 12, hit wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on the biggest play of the half, a 52-yarder across the middle of the field. But with about four minute left in the half, Mike Nugent missed his second field goal of the season when he hit the left upright from 44 yards.
That put the ball in Charles' hands again and he continued to bedevil the Bengals on third down. The Chiefs came into the game with a league-low 5-for-30 on third down. But they seven of 16 on Sunday and one converted a third-and-two as the half's two-minute warning neared. No one was near Charles when Alex Smith hit him in the flat for a four-yard pickup.
Charles finished the half with 113 total yards, but he got just 62 in the second and ended up with 75 yards rushing and 70 receiving. Smith had a big, if not frustrating day. He lit it up for a 95.2 rating and aired them out for 386 yards, but he got sacked five times and, of course, no TDs.
Charles bolted up the middle for 24 yards late in the half and they worked the clock to coax Santos' fourth field goal, a 36-yarder on what amounted to be the last play of the half as the Bengals never forced a Kansas City punt in the half.
On the game's first drive, Dalton fished a third-down shot-gun snap off the turf and straightened to hit wide receiver A.J. Green (seven catches for 82 yards in the half) streaking down the left side line for a 36-yard play that was the centerpiece of an opening touchdown drive.
Hill finished it off on an eight-yard touchdown run when he followed the pulling offensive line and then stiff-armed cornerback Marcus Peters on the perimeter until he walked into the end zone just 3:27 into the game.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson tossed a bunch at them on the first drive with Dalton also hitting Eifert on a bootleg for 16 yards and Green on a slant for five more. Hill's first carry came in the red zone, when the Bengals brought in two extra tackles, Jake Fisher and Eric Winston and Green was the only one of the 11 in the box.
The Bengals then went 2-for-2 to take a 14-3 lead with 53 seconds left in the first quarter, converting their fourth straight 80-yard drive stretching back to last week in Baltimore with Dalton hitting eight of his first eight for 122 yards. Going back to last Sunday, that made him 15 of 16 for 339 yards before his first two incompletions against the Chiefs.
Left guard Clint Boling caught the edge of blitzing linebacker Ramik Wilson and gave Dalton just enough time to scramble out of the pocket and he saw running back Rex Burkhead leaking past the coverage for a 27-yard gain. Then on third-and-two from the Chiefs 13, Dalton ran the zone read and he handed it to running back Giovani Bernard as the right side of the line, led by tackle Andre Smith, blew up the Chiefs and Bernard went in untouched.
So their first two third-down snaps accounted for a touchdown and Green's 36-yard catch.
And they needed it all because the Chiefs offense came out almost as hot when Charles and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin made big catch-and-runs in the middle of the field as the Chiefs pierced the red zone all half.
But Kanas City's third-down woes persisted enough they had to kick field goals at the end of each drive. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga set the tone on the first stand with a first-down stone in the running game and on third-and-10 right end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Geno Atkins chased Alex Smith out of the pocket and short of the sticks. Earlier in the drive, Johnson patiently worked play-action for his first sack since his return from Tampa.
The Chiefs stunned the Bengals on their second drive when Maclin was all alone over the middle of the field for a 44-yard play and the Bengals had to call a timeout before the next snap because they had 12 men on the field.
The Bengals regrouped in time to force another field goal when, on third-and-seven, SAM backer Emmanuel Lamur blitzed Smith out of the pocket and forced a throw behind the line of scrimmage to set up the second of Santos' three field goals.
The Bengals then wasted a 67-yard punt by Kevin Huber when he pinned the Chiefs on the 5, but they let Charles get loose on another third down when they let him convert on a short catch out of the backfield.
One Bengals' drive stopped when center Russell Bodine was called for unnecessary roughness as he dueled with Dontari Poe and then Nugent hit the upright. That came after Dalton barely overthrew Green's fingertips on what would have been a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Now the Bengals really don't know what the catch rule is after Eifert had a TD taken away last week. Smith hit Maclin for a 20-yard gain over the middle, but safety Reggie Nelson appeared to dislodge the ball almost immediately as Maclin caught it and the ball went spilling out of bounds. But the refs ruled Maclin had established himself as a runner and the 20-yard play stood and Peko's roughness penalty was tacked on as the Chiefs parlayed those two plays into another field goal.
Peko rebounded, though and racked up the Bengals' second sack of the day when he beat a double team and he finished with his first two sacks of the season after the 2014 season he only had one.
As expected the Bengals deactivated injured starting safety George Iloka and third-year man Shawn Williams figured to make his first NFL start in his place during Sunday's game against the Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium.
But Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis pulled a surprise when he lined up nickel cornerback Leon Hall at safety on the first snap. Hall, a nine-year veteran with 102 starts at corner, has played safety in nickel packages so he's no neophyte to the position.
Lewis also opted to sit defensive tackle Brandon Thompson in favor of Pat Sims even though Thompson contributed some strong plays in last week's win in Baltimore. But Sims also played well in the first two games before he injured his hip against the Chargers and had to sit out last week.
The other five inactives have been down for all four games: rookie wide receiver Mario Alford, veteran wide receiver Greg Little, rookie tight end C.J. Uzomah, veteran defensive end Margus Hunt, and rookie defensive lineman Marcus Hardison.
Iloka had started 35 straight games dating back to the '13 opener, but injured his ankle in the second quarter during this year's opener and didn't play much beyond that before playing all the snaps the next week in the win over San Diego. After playing 53 snaps in Baltimore, Iloka said he told the coaches he felt like he was hurting the club and felt he should come out.
Williams, a third-round pick who has been a special teams staple since coming out of Georgia in 2013, has taken a career-high 78 snaps from scrimmage.
Lewis chose to introduce the defensive starting lineup and several chose to wear pink Bengals ball caps in honor of breast cancer awareness. One of them was cornerback Adam Jones (elbow) despite missing one practice this week. And Jones dropped back to return the opening kickoff when the Chiefs won the toss and deferred and it was a touchback.