Andy Dalton, Bengals match best start in franchise history
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — With A.J. Green covered tightly by Buffalo, Andy Dalton turned to his other receivers in helping the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals win their sixth straight and match the team’s best start in franchise history.
Dalton threw three touchdown passes, and Giovani Bernard scored on a 17-yard run in a 34-21 win over the banged-up Bills on Sunday.
The Bengals broke the game open by scoring 17 points on their first three possessions of the second half in building a 31-14 lead.
Marvin Jones scored on an 11-yard pass to cap an eight-play 90-yard drive. Then Dalton hit tight end Tyler Eifert for a 4-yard touchdown with 1:42 left in the third quarter. Mike Nugent capped the run by hitting a 39-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Dalton finished 22 of 33 for 243 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown to Jeremy Hill. With Green limited to just four catches for 36 yards, Jones picked up the slack with nine catches for 95 yards, including a 42-yard catch that helped set up his touchdown.
The Bengals, who enter their bye week before traveling to play at Pittsburgh on Nov. 1, were also 6-0 to start the 1975 and `88 seasons.
The Bills (3-3) sputtered on offense and continued to be undone by mistakes that allowed the Bengals to enjoy an average drive start of midfield in the first half.
Injuries also played a factor. Buffalo started backup quarterback EJ Manuel in place of Tyrod Taylor, who sprained his left knee in rallying the Bills to a 14-13 win over Tennessee last week.
Starting running back LeSean McCoy returned after missing two games with a left hamstring injury and scored on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter.
However, Buffalo was minus starting receiver Percy Harvin (hip) and then lost receivers Sammy Watkins (left ankle) and Marquise Goodwin (ribs) to injuries. Watkins had just returned after missing two games with a right calf injury, but finished the game on crutches after getting hurt while making a 22-yard touchdown catch in the final seconds of the second quarter.
Starting defensive tackle Kyle Williams was carted off after hurting his left leg with 5:08 remaining.
The injuries create additional uncertainty for the Bills. Immediately following the game, the team prepared to travel to London, where they’ll play the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium next weekend.
Manuel was inconsistent in making his first start in a little more than a year. He finished 28 of 42 for 263 yards with a touchdown and interception. He also scored on a 2-yard run on Buffalo’s opening drive.
The Bills’ offense, however, dried up after Manuel scored. Buffalo combined for 0 yards and no first downs on its following four possessions.
Buffalo has lost three straight at home for the first time since 2011.