The Cincinnati Bengals defense continues to look as if they're in mid-season form but the Bengals offense took a small step back. Yet, it was enough to win the first half.
It's called the dress rehearsal.
It's the game that replicates a regular season game more than any other preseason game -- starters theoretically play the most significant number of snaps; coaches call more realistic plays in regards to the situations/scenarios and players usually play the first series into the third quarter to simulate post-half time adjustments. In reflection: The calls weren't that great and the players didn't play into the third quarter.
In other words, the idea of a dress rehearsal has faded like the necessity of an Oklahoma drill. So let's not refer to it with any reverence anymore.
That said, if we're comparing the first-team production in all three preseason games, the offense played down and the defense was comparable with one exception...
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Terence Newman nearly allowed two touchdowns during Arizona's second possession. The first was a nine-route to Michael Floyd down the right sidelines. Newman bumped Floyd just enough to disrupt the route while the football was in mid-flight. On the following play, third and ten with 10:58 remaining in the first quarter, Newman bit hard on an underneath route leaving a WIDE-OPEN Floyd down the right sidelines. Palmer, feeling the pressure from Geno Atkins, overthrew Floyd for an incomplete pass.
And then he paid back the suddenly accumulating deficit. It's third and seven with 6:55 remaining in the first quarter from the Cardinals 40-yard line. Carson Palmer takes the snap and throws the football towards Larry Fitzgerald down the right sidelines. Palmer, expecting Fitzgerald to hook, badly under-throws the Fitzgerald's vertical. Newman essentially sat and caught the freebee, returning it 54 yards for the touchdown. Game on.
Cincinnati's defense was overall solid. Geno Atkins hesitated putting his knee in danger, but had a handful of rushes that promoted ol' Geno. Baby steps, son. Vontaze Burfict suffered a hamstring injury and left early in the first quarter -- after sitting for most of the week with a stomach bug... save for the emotional factor of returning home, we're not sure why he played in the first place.
Carson Palmer only completed two of his first seven passes for 10 yards with a Terence Newman interception returned for a touchdown. Arizona's quarterback finished the game completing seven of 19 passes for 92 yards. Cardinals running back Andre Ellington posted 41 yards on his first seven carries. Though in fairness, Ellington had 17 yards on six carries before his 24-yard explosion with 13:34 remaining in the second to move Arizona to Cincinnati's 13-yard line. It ended with a field goal.
Offensively, Cincinnati was bland. Maybe purposeful. Hue Jackson wanted a running game this season. It wasn't a good "dress rehearsal" for that, with Giovani Bernard generating -2 yards on his first four carries. He picked up two yards on a screen early in the second quarter... but it was a lateral and therefore categorized as a run, giving him zero yards on his first five attempts. Jeremy Hill entered the game and pounded out 23 first half yards on four carries, averaging 5.8 yards per rush.
If the offense failed at anything, it's not overcoming the adversity of awful field position. Of the six first half possessions, four started inside their own nine-yard line. Two resulted in punts and two led to field goals. The two possessions that began outside of Cincinnati's nine-yard line? Both punts. Field position matters... but it wasn't why the Bengals first-team offense wasn't sharp. It wasn't sharp because Bernard was bouncing off his own linemen nor was the team particularly productive on third downs -- converting two of eight in the first half.
On the encouraging side of things, the combination of A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu is working. Both made quality receptions in critical situations... and in Green's case, gumby-like responses. Sanu and Green combined for 10 receptions and 123 yards receiving. Jermaine Gresham added a 33-yarder late in the second quarter. Bernard was the only other Bengals player to catch the football, and he snagged two passes for one yard.
Though Cincinnati was faced with inferior field position and unsustained third down conversions, the Bengals began producing late in the second quarter. Look at it this way: Cincinnati generated 198 yards and 10 first downs in the first half... 161 yards and eight first downs occurred during the final two possessions of the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Bengals weren't able to capitalize on either drive, converting field goals to take a 13-3 half-time lead.
It's not Super Bowl winning production... but it was enough this night for the first team offense.
RANDOM GAME NOTES:
- Russell Bodine wasn't very good. I'll accept that he's a rookie, but that doesn't really matter in the middle of the game.
- FLAG: Dontay Moch was just called for another penalty.
- JUST ANNOUNCED: Brandon Tate's memoirs: How to successfully lose a job.
- There is literally nothing that anyone can do against Margus Hunt... if he doesn't want them to.
- Good bye, R.J. Stanford. And where were you, Shawn Williams?
- Bad luck with two players late in the second half. It appears Trey Hopkins suffered a shin injury, which could be a season-ender (based on how his leg was rolled up... but we'll learn more later). Wide receiver James Wright's head hit an opposing forearm and the ground early in the fourth quarter. He was dazed for at least five minutes before departing. He'll most definitely face concussion protocols. Both were carted off.
- Until he becomes more dependable, Cobi Hamilton... no thanks.
- That said, better job by the backup players compared to last week's disaster.
- Cincinnati didn't even bother with a third quarterback on Sunday. After Andy Dalton departed at half time, Jason Campbell finished the game out.
- And Sean Porter ends the game with an interception.
- Well done by NBC and Michele Tafoya to talk about Devon Still and his daughter.
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