ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Rookie running back C.J. Spiller keeps providing a spark to the Buffalo Bills offense. And Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer is starting to gain chemistry with T.O. and the Bengals’ revamped receivers.
Add it up and it equaled an entertaining first half of a preseason game Saturday night, when Spiller scored twice in leading to Bills to a 35-20 win.
After scoring on a 1-yard run to tie the game at 14 midway through the second quarter, Spiller showed his dynamic speed on a 20-yard scamper up the left sideline to produce the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the half. Beating safety Marvin White to the corner, Spiller outran cornerback Adam Jones to the end zone.
It was the first-round draft pick’s third touchdown in his second start in place of injured veterans Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Spiller, who also took one snap out of a wildcat formation, finished with 52 yards rushing and had two catches for 33 yards.
“You saw that we can be explosive,” said Spiller, who also scored on a 31-yard run in a 34-21 win over Indianapolis last week. “It’s been great. I can’t wait until the season opens.”
Quarterback Trent Edwards seemed to solidify the starting job. In six series, he finished 13 of 17 for 153 yards and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Roscoe Parrish. Cornerback Reggie Corner sealed the win by returning Jordan Palmer’s interception 20 yards for a touchdown with 10:33 left.
The Bengals (2-2) could take consolation out of how Carson Palmer performed in engineering a pair of touchdown drives in the three series he played.
On the opening possession, Palmer efficiently capped a five-play, 47-yard drive by hitting wide-open rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham over the middle for a 9-yard touchdown. Two series later, Palmer went 5-for-6 for 39 yards and hit Chad Ochocinco in the back left corner of the end zone for a 6-yard catch.
“I’m feeling more comfortable every time I throw a pass,” Palmer said. “I love what Jermaine is doing. I love what Terrell is doing, and Chad is playing like he believes he’s the best receiver in the league.”
For Palmer, the scores marked his first two touchdown passes of the preseason, after Bengals starters scored only twice on 10 drives in their previous three games. Palmer also effectively distributed the ball, working in four receivers — including newly signed Terrell Owens — in going 9-for-11 for 95 yards.
Owens had three catches for 35 yards in his return to Buffalo after spending last season with the Bills.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was pleased with what he saw, saying the “first group on offense took another step forward, and that’s a big thing for our team.”
Cincinnati invested heavily this offseason in improving its receivers around Ochocinco. Aside from drafting Gresham in the first round, the Bengals signed T.O. just before the start of training camp last month. The team also signed veteran free agent Antonio Bryant, who missed his fourth preseason game while nursing a sore knee.
The Bengals avoided a scare when rookie cornerback Brandon Ghee was carted off the field midway through the third quarter after a violent helmet-to-helmet collision with running back Chad Simpson. Ghee lay motionless for several minutes before he was able to take a few groggy steps on his own to the cart.
The Bengals announced that Ghee, a third-round draft pick out of Wake Forest, sustained a head injury and had movement in both his arms and legs.
Jones did not return after leaving with a neck injury late in the third quarter.
The Bengals’ secondary is already banged up. Starting strong safety Roy Williams (ankle) and backup Chinedum Ndukwe are out, and Cincinnati was also without free safety Gibril Wilson, who’s out indefinitely after hurting his left knee last week.
The Bengals struggled after Palmer left, limited to a pair of field goals. Mike Nugent, attempting to secure the Bengals’ kicking job, hit a 54-yarder early in the third quarter. Dave Rayner, who is also competing for the job, made a 32-yard field goal.
For the Bills (2-1), Ryan Fitzpatrick took over at the start of the second half and finished 6 of 9 for 77 yards and a 20-yard touchdown to David Nelson.
Bills receiver James Hardy showed no signs of an injury that forced him to miss the first two preseason games. He had a big 30-yard catch from Fitzpatrick to set up Nelson’s score.