ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton celebrated a warm reception in Buffalo by completing two touchdown passes in leading Cincinnati to a 26-13 preseason win over the Bills on Sunday.
Dalton began the day by making a donation to Buffalo’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute, then received two standing ovations from Bills fans before kickoff.
Once the game began, he proceeded to complete 11 of 16 attempts for 180 yards over five series.
Linebacker Carl Lawson had 2 1/2 of the Bengals five sacks in the first half, during which Cincinnati’s defense overwhelmed Buffalo’s starting offense and rookie quarterback Josh Allen.
The Bengals improved their preseason record to 3-0, and Buffalo dropped to 1-2.
While Dalton earned most of the cheers, Allen took a step back in his bid to win a three-way competition and become the Bills’ season-opening starter.
Buffalo’s first-round draft pick finished 6 of 12 for 34 yards passing, and was sacked five times for 39 yards in his first preseason start. Allen was also fortunate he wasn’t intercepted on an underthrown pass intended for tight end Charles Clay up the right sideline.
Allen struggled behind a porous offensive line and displayed few signs of the progress he showed during his previous two outings overseeing the Bills’ second- and third-stringers.
Allen’s day ended in the final minute of the first half, when he was escorted off the field to be evaluated for a possible concussion after being tackled by Carlos Dunlap in the end zone. Though Allen was cleared to return, he stayed on the sideline while Nathan Peterman finished the game.
The Bills’ offensive line had difficulty protecting AJ McCarron during the first quarter of a 19-17 win at Cleveland. McCarron hurt his throwing shoulder after being sacked once and hit several other times.
Dalton got off to a hot start by hitting second-year receiver John Ross for a 57-yard touchdown on Cincinnati’s first play from scrimmage. Ross, who missed all but two games due to a shoulder injury last year, beat safety Jordan Poyer and then avoided Vontae Davis’ tackle to waltz into the end zone.
Dalton then capped Cincinnati’s third possession by hitting A.J. Green for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:32 left in the first quarter.
The so-called “Buffa-love” for Dalton was a carryover from New Year’s Eve, when the Bengals’ starter became perhaps the most popular non-Bills player in town.
That’s when his 49-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Tyler Boyd in the final minute sent the Bengals to a 31-27 win in Baltimore.
The victory eliminated the Ravens from contention and nudged the Bills into the postseason for the first time since 1999 to end what had been the longest active playoff drought in North America’s four major professional sports.
Bills fans almost immediately began a campaign to thank the quarterback by donating to his charitable foundation. As of last week, Bills fans were directly credited for raising more than $450,000 spread over 17,000-plus donations.
The Bengals led 23-0 before the Bills mounted a comeback with two scores late in the third quarter.
Peterman hit Jason Croom for a 17-yard touchdown, and then Travaris Cadet scored on a 1-yard run on a scoring drive set up by Rafael Bush intercepting Bengals backup Matt Barkley.
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