For his part, Anderson says, "I think I'm a good quarterback. I've still got things to learn but I feel comfortable out there now. I've become more disciplined. I know our passing game better and I know where everyone's going to be. I think I'm making better decisions about who I throw to. I wouldn't classify myself as a superstar, but I think I'm as good as any other quarterback in the league."
As for his extraordinary statistics, Anderson says, "They're nice to look at and make you feel good, but some weeks you have to complete 17 of 22 to win and you can't do that every week. You're also going to have the games when you're seven of 22, but if you hit the right seven, you'll win."
Walsh, among others, expects Anderson to keep hitting often this year. "You never know when a player's progression will slow or stop," he says, "but Kenny's hasn't stopped yet. We think he will be better this year because he'll stay with his primary receivers longer to get more yardage out of the abilities of Isaac Curtis and Chip Myers. It may mean a few more interceptions, but I think it will mean more points."
Curtis is a receiver who deserves staying with while he flies down field. With his 9.3 speed and improved knowledge of defensive backs, this season Curtis has caught 16 Anderson passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns, each of which has been followed by his patented, behind-the-helmet ball drop.
" Curtis is a great delight," Brown says. "It's in character for him to do that with the ball. No fanfare, no jumping up and down or spiking it. He's a very gentle person and he just gets rid of it."
Curtis can get rid of worry, too, as Anderson found out in New Orleans earlier this season. "We had a short-yardage play called and when I came into the huddle, I just couldn't get it out," he says. "My tongue was tied. Finally I called the play but we came out in the wrong formation. But we scored a touchdown anyway. Isaac got it. He's a nice guy to go to when you're in trouble."
Anderson suffered only momentary stress last Sunday when the Bengals scored a 27-10 victory over winless New England, but the occasions when he could go to Curtis were stymied by the Patriots' double coverage. Only on a New England blitz was Anderson able to connect with his fastest receiver for a 45-yard gain that set up Cincinnati's first touchdown. With Curtis in check, Anderson adjusted by throwing to Chip Myers and Charlie Joiner, a pair of reliable veterans who combined for nine receptions totaling 136 yards.
Anderson, who completed 16 of 31 for 265 yards and a touchdown, was at his peak in the third quarter when he took his mates on a dazzling seven-play drive covering 83 yards. The march ended with Essex Johnson scampering 12 yards into the end zone after Anderson had completed three of five passes for 57 yards. Less than a minute later the Bengals put the game out of reach when Linebacker Al Beauchamp recovered Sam Cunningham's fumble at the New England 37-yard line and Anderson threw a touchdown pass to Joiner.
Despite some close calls when he had to thread the needle on passes to Myers or found Bruce Coslet in a swarm of defenders, Anderson again enjoyed an interception-free afternoon. Even so, he rated the game as one of his lesser efforts. "We wobbled around for a while," Brown said, "before we discovered that the best way to attack their 3-4 defense was to run right at it." In so doing, the Bengals churned out 174 yards rushing, tops for the season.
If the team stays healthy, as it assuredly did not a year ago, Cincinnati will be a stern test for everyone, including Oakland, whom it meets this Sunday at Riverfront Stadium.