McCarron shines as Bengals down Bears

Andy Dalton’s night started strong and ended early when the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback left Saturday night’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears with a minor neck injury.

Dalton guided the Bengals on a 16-play, 77-yard drive to start the game, capping the march with a 1-yard touchdown dive on fourth and goal to spark a 21-10 victory.

Dalton didn’t appear hurt after the play as he crawled from under the pile and delivered an emphatic spike in celebration. But a few minutes later it was announced he had a neck injury and his return was questionable.

AJ McCarron took over at quarterback after that.

At halftime, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said removing Dalton was merely “precautionary” and that the quarterback was “fine.”

Dalton was 6 of 6 for 52 yards, connecting with five receivers on the long touchdown drive. He also had three rushes for 16 yards. His first carry was an 8-yard scramble from the pocket, and the second was a designed read option that went for seven yards.

“We wanted to come out and set the tone right away after last week,” Dalton said, referring to the dismal display in a 25-11 loss at Tampa Bay.

“We wanted to come out and play fast, and that’s exactly what we did. We mixed in runs and passes and controlled the ball. It got a little tough at the end, but that just made us want to score more. I knew I’d get in. I knew our line would do it for me.”

The offense continued to click with McCarron under center. After a three-and-out on his first series, McCarron led back-to-back touchdown drives to send Cincinnati into halftime with a 21-3 lead.

McCarron completed his first seven passes and finished 12 of 17 for 149 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones. Jeremy Hill added a 1-yard touchdown as part of a 46-yard effort on 11 carries.

“We got some things done we wanted to get done,” Lewis said. “We started fast, and both first units played pretty well.”

The starting defense held Chicago to 114 yards and six first downs in the first half. Chicago’s only touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter on a blocked punt by Ify Umodu.

A handful of players who had been injured made their season debut against the Bears, including rookie second-pick Jake Fisher.

Fisher entered on the second snap as an eligible receiver but struggled to hold his block against the Jared Allen, who cut down Jeremy Hill for a 2-yard gain. Fisher’s struggles continued throughout the game as he was flagged twice for illegal formation and had a holding call declined when the Bears recovered a Cedric Peerman fumble.

Also making their preseason debuts for the Bengals were kicker Mike Nugent and right tackle Andre Smith.

Among those who did not dress for the game were cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Brandon Ghee, linebackers Emmanuel Lamur, Vontaze Burfict and Sean Porter, defensive tackle Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims, wide receivers Tevin Reese and Onterio McCalebb and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.

The Bengals (2-1) wrap the preseason Thursday in Indianapolis.

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