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Bengals starters come on strong, backups finish off 26-13 win over Bills

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Andy Dalton repaid Buffalo fans by dropping 118 yards and 17 points on the Bills in the first half of the Bengals vs. Bills preseason Week 3 matchup. Matt Barkley and the defensive line kept the game out of reach after that.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The next chapter of the Bengals/Bills romance was written on Sunday afternoon as the the two teams faced off in Orchard Park, New York in the third week of the NFL preseason.

The Bengals’ starters were on fire on both sides of the ball to start the game. Andy Dalton passed for 180 yards, while A.J. Green, John Ross, and Tyler Boyd all caught for more than 50 yards apiece. On the defensive side, the starters collected five sacks and pressured opposing quarterback Josh Allen 11 times in the first half. Much of the first team left the game with a 20-0 lead, which was the score at halftime.

The Bills got back into the game when the Bengals’ second units entered; this was mostly due to the fact that the Bills kept their first-team offensive line in the game for longer. But the Cincinnati defense was able to hold on while the offense kept the game out of reach.

The Bengals won the game 26-13 and hopefully didn’t put too much of a dent on their friendship with the Bills.

Before the game even started, Andy Dalton had an errand to run.

In January, the Bengals ended the Bills’ 17-year playoff drought by knocking off the Ravens, which prompted Bills fans to flood Andy and Jordan Dalton’s foundation with over $400,000. In turn, the Daltons paid a visit to Roswell Park Cancer Center and thanked Bills Mafia by making a donation putting to use Bills fans’ donations. Andy even took time out of his pregame schedule to make an appearance alongside his wife J.J., son Noah and members of the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation board of directors.

When Dalton made it back to New Era Field, he drew a standing ovation from Bills fans when he was introduced before the game started.

After making Bills fans stand in celebration, he made them pull their hair out as soon as he got the ball into his hands. On the first snap of the first Bengals’ offensive possession, Dalton launched a ball to John Ross, who caught it inside the 10-yard line and made two Bills defenders miss him on his way to the end zone. After the 57-yard play, Randy Bullock converted the point after to put the Bengals out in front 7-0 with 13:42 left in the first quarter. It was a great starting, coming just after the Bengals’ defense forced the Bills to a three-and-out to start off the game.

Rookie quarterback Josh Allen started at quarterback for the Bills while former Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron watched on the sidelines while dealing with a shoulder injury.

Later on in the first quarter, Dalton found Tyler Eifert and Joe Mixon to get the Bengals into the red zone. He hit A.J. Green for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:32 left in the quarter, and Bullock added the extra point. Dalton put 14 points on the scoreboard in the first 10 minutes on his first trip to Buffalo since helping the Bills to the playoffs.

While Dalton imposed his will on the Bills’ passing defense, the Bengals’ pass rush made life very uncomfortable for Allen. Both Andrew Billings and Carl Lawson had sacks early on and the defense held the Bills to only 45 yards in the first quarter. The Bengals had out gained the Bills by more than 100 yards after only three drives apiece.

Tyler Boyd and Giovani Bernard contributed to the Bengals’ next drive. The Bengals gained 58 yards before Bullock nailed a 46-yard field goal with 9:19 left in the first half. The Bengals led 17-0 and looked absolutely dominant doing it. Marvin Lewis also made sure to stop the Jonathan Brown talk by giving all the work to the team’s incumbent kicker.

On the next defensive possession, the Bengals gave up a 20-yard run to Isaiah Crowell, but then stopped the Bills dead in their tracks. After a sack by Billings and Jordan Willis, followed by another from Lawson (2.5 in total at that point), the Bills punted on 4th-and-38.

With six minutes left in the second half, Dalton’s amazing day was done.

Matt Barkley came into the game and connected with Tyler Kroft for 21 yards and ended the drive two-for-three with 25 yards. The drive ended in a 37-yard field goal from Bullock, and the Bengals were way out in front 20-0 with 3:48 left in the second quarter. Also of note was that Barkley came in after Dalton and not Jeff Driskel who was second in rotation last week.

The Bengals walked into he locker room with a comfortable lead and both the offense and the defense were totally dominant. The first team offense, led by Dalton and Green scored three times in five possessions. The Bengals out gained the Bills 246 to 76 total yards, while Allen only gained 34 yards through the air. He never had a clean pocket to work from, however, as the Bengals sacked him five times in the first half.

The worst parts of the first half were an injury for left tackle Cordy Glenn and an inefficient run game that had as many yards as rushing attempts.

The Bengals received the kickoff after halftime and kept moving the chains. Barkley found Boyd and Tra Carson on two consecutive third downs to keep the ball moving. He then connected with Alex Erickson for 20 yards, as the receiver held onto the ball despite a nasty hit from defender Vontae Davis. In the red zone, Barkley tried to fade the ball to Josh Malone, but Davis stepped up and batted it away, forcing a field goal attempt. Bullock’s 40-yarder was good, and the Bengals increased their lead to 23-0 with 10:52 left in the third quarter.

With each team’s second units in the game, the Bills’ offense finally found some breathing room on their next drive. With Nathan Peterman now under center, Kelvin Benjamin out-lept C.J. Goodwin for a 28-yard gain to get the Bills near midfield. Once the Bills got to the red zone, Jason Croom took a short pass from Peterman 17 yards to the house. With the Bills finally on the scoreboard with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter, the Bengals’ deficit was cut to only 14 points after Stephen Hauschka scored the extra point. The Bengals would get the ball back, ahead 23-7.

The Bills got another chance after Auden Tate tipped a pass to defensive back Raphael Bush. Capitalizing on the interception and the great field position, Peterman went back to Croom to set the Bills up inside the 10-yard line where Goodwin would draw a pass interference call in the end zone (his second of the game). From the one-yard line, Travaris Cadet plowed into the end zone for a touchdown. Cadet then failed to reach the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt, but the Bills already cut the Bengals’ lead to 23-13 with 1:38 to go in the third quarter.

Barkley would exit the game at the end of the third quarter after completing nine of 16 passing attempts for 112 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a rating of 52.1.

Jeff Driskel, who has been fun to watch this (and every) preseason, entered the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter to take the Bengals back to the red zone. Driskel hit Mason Schreck for a 24-yard pass, but Schreck — who attended college at Buffalo — lost the ball when he tried to dive into the end zone. Fortunately, the ball went harmlessly out of bounds so the Bengals kept the ball at the two-yard line where they wound up kicking a field goal. Jonathan Brown knocked in the 19-yard chip shot to extend the Bengals lead to 26-13 with 6:09 left in the game.

On the next drive, Peterman went six for seven for 69 yards. The Bills got all the way down to the Bengals’ seven-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs after Tony McRae knocked the ball away from Ray-Ray McCloud in the end zone on fourth-and-six.

The Bengals got the ball back at the two minute warning and the 26-13 score would hold. The Bengals, now 3-0 this preseason, will head back to Cincinnati for the last game of the preseason on Thursday at 7 P.M. at Paul Brown Stadium against the Colts. That same team is also the Bengals’ Week 1 opponent for the September 9 opener in Indianapolis.