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Backup QB Matt Barkley hurt as Bengals lose to Colts 27-26

CINCINNATI — Matt Barkley’s left knee was injured by a low hit after he threw a pass during Cincinnati’s 27-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night, giving Jeff Driskel the inside track for the Bengals’ backup quarterback role.

For the second year in a row, the Bengals (3-1) lost a quarterback to injury in the final preseason game. Last year, Driskel broke the thumb on his passing hand in Indianapolis, ending his season. Cincinnati also has seventh-round pick Logan Woodside.

It was the most high-profile job up for grabs in a game that featured few starters. The Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Bengals’ Andy Dalton watched as reserves competed for roster spots.

The No. 2 quarterback job hadn’t been an issue for the Bengals since they drafted AJ McCarron in 2014. He led them to the playoffs the following year when Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand. The Bengals asserted McCarron was still under contract for 2018 because he was hurt during his rookie season, but McCarron won a grievance and became a free agent, going to Buffalo. The Bengals then signed Barkley.

On Cincinnati’s second possession, Kemoko Turay hit Barkley in the legs after he threw a pass, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty. Barkley came to the sideline to have the knee examined and walked to the locker room. He didn’t return.

Driskel finished the first half and went 14 of 20 for 116 yards with a 20-yard touchdown and a passer rating of 101.2.

Jacoby Brissett — Luck’s backup — was 8 of 12 for 68 yards with a passer rating of 109. He led the Colts (3-1) on an 18-play, 79-yard drive that took 9 minutes, 33 seconds and culminated in his 2-yard touchdown pass.

Luck is ready for his first regular-season game in more than 20 months, the result of a long recovery from surgery on this throwing shoulder.

Luck said his shoulder felt strong during his preseason appearances, and the Colts are counting on him staying healthy so they can try to break their streak of three straights seasons without a playoff appearance.

WATCHING

The Bengals gave a four-year contract extension to defensive tackle Geno Atkins and a three-year extension to Carlos Dunlap on Tuesday. Neither played against the Colts.

NATIONAL ANTHEM

There were no protests during the national anthem, with all players from both teams standing.

INJURIES

Colts: RB Christine Michael was wobbly after a hard hit in the second quarter and the officials sent him to the sideline for evaluation. … DE Tarell Basham hurt his left knee in the second quarter and walked toward the locker room for an exam. He didn’t return.

Bengals: Tight end Cethan Carter suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter.

EMPTY SEATS

The Bengals announced the crowd at 39,520 at Paul Brown Stadium, which seats 65,535. Their other preseason game drew 35,633 fans.

NEXT UP

The Bengals will make the quick trip to Indianapolis to open the season on Sunday Sept. 9. The teams played in the regular season last year as well, with the Bengals winning 24-23 at Paul Brown Stadium on Dunlap’s interception return for a touchdown.

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