Andy Dalton leaves with sore neck in Bengals' win over Bears

CINCINNATI -- Andy Dalton's sore neck gave AJ McCarron a chance for his first NFL keepsake.

Dalton sneaked in for a touchdown on Cincinnati's opening drive, then came out of the game as a precaution with a sore neck on Saturday night during a 21-10 preseason victory over the Chicago Bears.

The Bengals (2-1) were looking for a lot more out of their starting offense after a three-turnover performance in a loss at Tampa Bay. Dalton threw two interceptions in that one.

On Saturday, he completed all six of his passes during a 16-play, 77-yard drive that consumed 9 minutes, 11 seconds. Dalton finished it with a sneak from inside the 1-yard line, emerged from the pile and spiked the ball.

When Dalton reached the sideline, he took off his helmet and coach Marvin Lewis decided to keep him there because he had a sore neck. Dalton didn't go for treatment, staying on the sideline for the rest of the first half.

"It was just being at the bottom of a pile and not being able to move," Dalton said. "If it was the regular season, I would've stayed in a played. It was just being cautious."

McCarron was impressive during his first stint with the starting offense. He completed his first seven passes, including a 31-yard throw to Marvin Jones for his first professional TD pass. He kept the ball, cradling it under his left arm as he jogged off the field.

The ball rested in his locker after the game, ready for admission to his trophy case.

"An unbelievable experience," McCarron said. "I was worried for Andy right off the bat. Playing with these guys is unbelievable. It's a special group.

"Words really can't describe it."

McCarron was a fifth-round pick out of Alabama last year, but missed his rookie season with a sore passing shoulder. He won the backup job after the second preseason game, and gave the Bengals a sense of confidence that he can keep the offense going if Dalton gets hurt.

His impressive showing on Saturday also could make things a little tougher for Dalton, who was booed by fans when he was introduced before a celebrity softball game at Great American Ball Park during the All-Star festivities. Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his four seasons, but is 0-4 in the playoffs.

Bengals quarterbacks completed their first 13 passes against the Bears (2-1), who again failed to get a touchdown out of their starting offense. Jay Cutler played the first half and one series in the second half, leading Chicago to a field goal.

The Bears' offense has managed five field goals and no touchdowns in the preseason.

Cutler was 13 of 17 for 98 yards without an interception before he was replaced by Jimmy Clausen. The starting offense got six first downs and 123 yards on 29 plays.

"We've got a lot of stuff we've got to get cleaned up," Cutler said.

Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press

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