Kansas City opened the game with a three-and-out, thanks to Geno Atkins shedding a run-block and dropping Jamaal Charles for a limited two-yard gain. Two plays later Atkins deflected a third down pass, forcing the Chiefs to punt the football. Is there anyone that owns Bengals gear without some sort of man-crush with Atkins? Cincinnati didn't fare much better in response. After a one-handed eight-yard reception by rookie Mohamed Sanu, BenJarvus Green-Ellis picked up the first down on an 11-yard pitch to the right. Cincinnati failed to acquire another first down on the possession, forced to punt four plays later.
Fortunately that wasn't the story of the first quarter -- well, at least not for the Bengals. The big plays that defined the first quarter (which defined the game):
THE FAKE PUNT
After Ryan Succop converted a 34-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead, the Bengals offense resumed at their own 22-yard line with 8:26 remaining in the first quarter. After a supposed three and out, the Bengals lined up to punt the football away. At this point in the game, the Bengals were sleep-walking a little. They needed a spike of energy, something to get them going.
Clark Harris snapped the football directly to Cedric Peerman, while Brian Leonard sealed the outside giving Peerman plenty of lane to pick up 32 yards on the fake, giving Cincinnati's offense life. Right?
THE FOURTH DOWN COVERSION, PART II
Despite the fake, the Bengals still appeared lifeless, cameo characters in The Walking Dead. Jermaine Gresham's false start pushed Cincinnati back to the Chiefs 44-yard line, forcing the team into a first and 15. Andy Dalton nearly overthrows A.J. Green on a wide receiver screen, forcing Green to jump for the football and take the three-yard loss (in fairness the Chiefs defense recognized and reacted immediately). Dalton then badly overthrows A.J. Green down the right sidelines, and picks up 11 yards on a third and 18 dump down to Brian Leonard.
This sets up fourth and seven at Kansas City's 36-yard line -- roughly no man's land with a low-percentage distance conversion for Mike Nugent and where punting doesn't really help the field position game all that much. So the Bengals go for it on fourth down.
Dalton, empty backfield, looks downfield, even cocks his arm momentarily, then abandoned the pocket for an 11-yard scramble and the first down.
JERMAINE GRESHAM 18-YARD RECEPTION
With 3:40 remaining in the first quarter, the Bengals are pushing, though sustaining a drive with two fourth down conversions (one of which was a fake punt). It's second and seven from the Chiefs 22-yard line. Cincinnati has offset-I with Jermaine Gresham at the right TE position.
No one bothers covering his hitch route over the middle, about five yards off the line of scrimmage. It was almost like Gresham recognized the gap in the zone, exposed it and waited for the similarly-thinking Andy Dalton to throw it.
Gresham hauls in the football and sprints another 12 yards, picking up 18 total on the play to the Chiefs four-yard line.
A.J. GREEN FRANCHISE BREAKING RECEPTION
Then there's this.
The Bengals take a 7-3 lead, never relinquishing that lead for the rest of the afternoon.
THE GENO ATKINS FORCED FUMBLE
With :56 remaining in the first quarter, the Chiefs try responding to Cincinnati's touchdown, even picking up a first down -- no thanks to Terence Newman's defensive hold on third and seven that wiped out Carlos Dunlap's quarterback sack.
Matt Cassel hands off to Peyton Hillis, targeting the left edge. Geno Atkins punches the football out of Hillis' grasp, recovered by Vontaze Burfict. Bengals football.