The donation he made to Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute to open the day was special. The two standing ovations he received from Bills fans before the preseason game were chilling.
And Dalton was able to keep his emotions in check on the first snap from scrimmage to hit John Ross for a 57-yard touchdown pass in leading the Bengals to a 26-13 victory.
"It was a good day. I think the way it started was the best part," Dalton said. "The game went well, too."
The Bills could not say the same about their offense -- and a three-way quarterback competition that remains unsettled.
Rookie Josh Allen struggled in his first preseason start, while getting little protection from an offensive line that allowed five sacks in the first half alone. He finished 6-of-12 and was sacked for more yards (39) than he had passing (34).
"I didn't do a good enough job getting the ball out on time," the first-round pick said. "I've got to do a better job, but there's a lot to learn from."
Dalton eased whatever concerns the starters raised with their sputters in last week's 21-13 win at Dallas by producing three scoring drives -- two touchdowns and a field goal -- over five series against the Bills.
Dalton finished 11-of-16 for 180 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 14-yarder to A.J. Green -- to celebrate the warm reception he received in Buffalo nine months after playing a key role in the Bills making the playoffs and ending a 17-year playoff drought.
It happened in the final minute of the season finale against Baltimore on New Year's Eve. Dalton's 49-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Tyler Boyd sent the Bengals to a 31-27 win -- and eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention.
Bills fans responded immediately by making over $450,000 to Dalton's charitable foundation.
"It's a crazy story, and it's been fun to be on this side of it," Dalton said. "The best part is all the money that was raised."
Buffalo's offense continues to raise concerns two weeks before opening the regular season at Baltimore.
Allen generated just three first downs before being forced out of the game in the final minute of the first half. 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.
This was a week after the starters went three-and-out in four series and starter AJ McCarron was sacked once and hit several other times before being sidelined with an injury to his right throwing shoulder in a 19-17 win at Cleveland.
"It's disappointing," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "We're going to make sure we're helping him with protection and catching the football and not beating ourselves with penalties. Let's just start there."
Linebacker Carl Lawson had 2 1/2 of the Bengals' five sacks in the first half, and he nearly had an interception. He was in position to pick off Allen's underthrown pass up the right sideline only to have tight end Charles Clay break it up.
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 drive set up by Rafael Bush intercepting Bengals backup Matt Barkley's pass. Peterman finished 16-of-21 for 200 yards, upping his preseason total to 33-of-41 for 432 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert had one catch for 11 yards while targeted three times in making his preseason debut. The Bengals' 2013 first-round draft pick is coming off back surgery and was limited to playing just two games last year.
Bengals: Left tackle Cordy Glenn stood on the sideline but did not return after hurting his right shoulder in the first quarter. Coach Marvin Lewis said Glenn was fine. Guard Christian Westerman (back) and running back Jarveon Williams (left knee) did not return.
Bills: Backup linebacker Julian Stanford did not return after hurting his nose in the first half. RB LeSean McCoy (hip/groin) and left tackle Dion Dawkins (hip) did not play after being injured in practice this week.
The Bengals stood together along the sideline except for Dunlap, who stood on the field at the 45 with his hand on his chest. No member of the Bills appeared to protest.
Bengals: Host Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
Bills: At Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
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