CINCINNATI -- Quarterback Andy Dalton arrived at the Cincinnati Bengals' postgame press conference with his bright red hair slightly tousled and a smile permanently affixed to his face.
Dalton's summer of fun, which included the birth of his first child on July 1 and the signing of a six-year, $115 million contract extension Aug. 4, rolled on Saturday night when he pitched a perfect game against the New York Jets.
Making his first appearance at Paul Brown Stadium since a three-interception performance in a 27-10 wild-card playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers in January, Dalton completed all eight of his passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. He was credited with a perfect passer rating, 158.3.
Maybe the most telling stat of all was 10, which was the number of times Dalton used the "fun" during the 14-question press conference.
"When you have a game like you did tonight, and you have teammates like I have, it's a lot of fun," Dalton said. "When you're out there making plays and doing things like we did tonight, it is a lot of fun. It's still the game that you played when you were little."
Dalton led the first-team offense on three consecutive scoring drives that netted Cincinnati 17 points on 17 plays in just under 17 minutes.
The Jets, however, left their starters in for the bulk of the first half and took advantage of shaky performances by the Bengals' backups to erase a 17-3 deficit for a 25-17 victory.
Even that was not enough to wipe the smile off Dalton's face.
"He's just having so much fun out there right now," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. "This is his team, and he's playing really well. You can tell he's really enjoying everything. Everyone's behind him. Everyone believes in him."
Dalton checked out of Jackson's play call several times against the Jets, one of which led to a 35-yard pass to wide receiver A.J. Green that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Giovani Bernard for a 14-3 lead.
Dalton's best throw of the game came on the opening drive, when he hit wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on a deep pass over the middle for a 43-yard touchdown despite tight coverage from Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson.
"Man, that guy's amazing," Sanu said of his quarterback. "He's dropping dimes all over the place. You wish you could play longer when everybody's in a grove and on the same page and Andy's spinning the ball like that."
Dalton led the Bengals on scoring drives on each of the four series he played in the first two preseason games, going 11-for-13 for 215 yards with one touchdown and a 144.4 passer rating.
"He's on top of his game," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "He's throwing the football and understands what we want. He continues to play the way we think he should play all the time.
"It doesn't surprise me because that's the way he practices all the time. He doesn't have to be flashy. He just needs to be accurate and handle the offense. He does his thing very well."
However, winning in the preseason is one thing, doing it the postseason is something else, something Dalton has to yet to accomplish in three tries.
Some people wondered what kind of reception he would get playing in front of the home fans for the first time since the San Diego loss -- and the first time since the giant contract extension -- but Dalton said the response was overwhelmingly positive.
"I thought it was great," he said. "It wasn't any different from the way it's been since I've been here. I got a lot of cheers going out there. Hopefully we keep getting cheers when we're scoring touchdowns.
"I've been here for a while now, and obviously I'm going to be here for a little while longer. It was fun. I think the fans were into it. Hopefully they keep coming and see what this team can do."