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How an unexpected story developed between the Bills, Bengals and Andy Dalton

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Buffalo Bills fans have donated more than $350,000 to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, giving everyone a heartfelt conclusion to an unexpected story.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There were 53 seconds remaining on the season.

Cincinnati, already evicted from the playoffs for a second-straight season, needed something positive to build off of. Lame duck head coach Marvin Lewis started facing adversity with published reports claiming he wasn’t interested in negotiating a new deal after 2017 — Lewis repeatedly denied those charges and eventually signed a two-year deal to remain head coach of the Bengals. And whether or not one existed, there was a perceived disconnect been between ownership and Lewis, from personnel decisions (i.e., the question centering around John Ross), to a difference in vision moving forward. Lewis even reportedly faced a near mutiny that led to Ken Zampese’s dismissal. The Bengals needed to draw up something good.

There were 53 seconds remaining in the game.

Professional pride and divisional antagonism began fueling the Bengals by Week 17. If Lewis was leaving, players wanted to give him, as well as their position coaches, one more win. And if they disrupted Baltimore’s chances of making the playoffs, even the better. Everyone associated with the Ravens, Bengals, and Bills—postseason benefactors if the Ravens lost—anxiously watched.

Coming out of a timeout, the Bengals approached the line of scrimmage. Cincinnati needed 12 yards to convert the fourth down for an opportunity for one more victory dance.

Andy Dalton, flanked by tight end C.J. Uzomah and running back Giovani Bernard, was in shotgun. A.J. Green lined up wide left and Brandon LeFell was wide right. Tyler Boyd centered himself in the slot. Uzomah shifted to a spot primarily designated for tight ends, outside Eric Winston’s right shoulder, about a yard off the line of scrimmage. Ravens fans shouted, screamed, banged their hands, tasked with muting Andy Dalton’s cadence. It didn’t work.

Dalton took three steps into his drop, pivoted on his right foot, and quickly stepped forward to avoid a sweeping pass rush from Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon. Dalton threw the ball. Boyd, with a white-knuckle grip on the completed pass around the 25-yard line, spun and expertly dodged defenders to score the game-winning touchdown.

Baltimore’s failed fourth down conversion on their ensuing possession sealed the win for Cincinnati.

Bengals fans obviously prefer playoff wins and championships, like any fanatic from any sport. But if blocking the Ravens’ path to the postseason, while in Baltimore, is a consolation prize, we’ll take it.

Then something unexpected occurred.

When Cincinnati defeated Baltimore during the regular season finale, it snapped Buffalo’s playoff drought. Buffalo reacted in a way we haven’t seen in the NFL.

Bills fans began donating $17 to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, reaching nearly $350,000 by Sunday morning over a single week. ESPN ran the story Sunday morning and soon after, the official Twitter account for the foundation said that they were receiving 25 donations per minute on Sunday morning, the morning of the Bills’ playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars, like the Bills, have not been in the playoffs in a decade.

In addition to those donations, the Buffalo Bills shipped 1,440 chicken wings (plus 90 pounds of celery, 30 pounds of carrots, six gallons of blue cheese, and nine gallons of Duff’s wing sauce) from the Buffalo-based Duff’s on Thursday. The organization, with the help of safety George Iloka and Eric Ball (Director of Player Relations), delivered the wings to Autism Services at The Children’s Home of Cincinnati the next day.

And what about the man that caught the football? Tyler Boyd’s Western PA Youth Athletic Association, attempting to provide positive direction through sports and recreation for children between the ages of 5-14, has raised nearly $65,000, well over their stated goal of $50,000.

This story began with Bengals crushing the Ravens’ postseason hopes and ended with Bills fans helping communities in Cincinnati (and Texas where Dalton resides). Despite Cincinnati’s poor season, this actually turned out to be a beautiful conclusion to an unexpected story.