Andy Dalton is entertained. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Despite having another slow start during the opening possession of the game, Cincinnati's first-team offense eventually found their momentum. During their first three possessions, Cincinnati converted five of six third-down opportunities, knocking out 21 plays for 132 yards and ten points during the second and third series combined. Jermaine Gresham, before leaving the game with a knee injury (more on that later), exhibited some of that pure athleticism and impressive determination with a 25-yard reception highlighted with multiple missed tackles. Donald Lee adequately replaced him posting a team-high four receptions.
Five different Bengals generated a play with 20 yards receiving or more, including A.J. Green's 50-yard touchdown reception that gave Cincinnati a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter. Though the highlight of the evening, it was a typical launch and catch from one of the league's more promising quarterback-receiver combinations, which was perfect for a national television audience obsessed with questioning Dalton's arm strength. The first-team offense with Andy Dalton (first-team offensive line stayed in the game when Bruce Gradkowski replaced Dalton), participated in three possessions, generating seven first downs, a field goal and touchdown. The first possession of the evening ended on a Brian Leonard lost fumble.
Two fumbles are an issue with the team's running back (more on that later), it remains the first-team's best effort on offense this preseason.
Cincinnati's defense? Well. That's a little different. Michael Turner wasn't worth a lick, posting negative three yards on three carries with tremendous efforts by Cincinnati's defensive tackles recording plays in the backfield while fighting through blocks. Predictably though the secondary struggled against a much better passing offense compared to last week against the Jets. Matt Ryan completed 18 of 21 passes for 174 yards, a touchdown and quarterback rating of 117.1. Roddy White and Julio Jones played with great separation all night with what seemingly appeared to be soft coverage with a focus against the deep pass.
Eight different Falcons recorded at least one 20-yard reception when the night ended, while the Bengals defense generated a limited pass rush, especially in the first half. Yet as good as Atlanta's passing offense was against Cincinnati's secondary, the Falcons couldn't muster points. During Atlanta's first three red zone appearances, the Falcons were forced to convert two field goals.
Defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Domata Peko were monsters against the run during the first two series, each posting tackles in the backfield against Michael Turner. Safety Jeromy Miles stepped up with a quality game posting six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. With 2:35 remaining in the third quarter, wide receiver Marvin Jones did a shimmy move before stepping outside on a vertical route. Quarterback Zac Robinson hit Jones on a 42-yard reception. It's the second 40-plus yard reception by Jones this preseason.
Nice to see Mike Nugent crush a 54-yard field goal early in the first quarter, giving the Bengals a 3-0 lead. Roddrick Muckelroy replaced Rey Maualuga as the team's starting middle linebacker, generating a team-leading seven tackles during the evening.
Running back Brian Leonard lost the football eclipsing the first down marker with 10:16 remaining in the first quarter. Thankfully Cincinnati's defense forced the three-and-out preventing any damage. On the following possession Cedric Peerman lost another fumble. The football rolled out of bounds and the Bengals kept possession, eventually scoring on a 50-yard A.J. Green touchdown reception.
Last week against the New York Jets, Taylor Mays violently made a low tackle on Shonn Greene that collided into Rey Maualuga's legs. Though we're not sure if it was a direct result of Maualuga's knee sprain, it was a contributor. Against the Falcons, Mays tried decleating tight end Michael Palmer but missed. Instead his shoulder knocked Vontaze Burfict in the head, knocking him out of the game.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham left the game with a knee injury at some point during a 25-yard reception in the first quarter. With 9:16 remaining in the second quarter, Matt Ryan completed a 20-yard pass to Michael Palmer. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was preparing to make the stop when safety Taylor Mays, with a mindless attempt at a poor tackle, knocked Burfict into next week with what could be a head injury.
Bengals cornerbacks Adam Jones and Jason Allen and wide receiver Ryan Whalen sat through practice this week, forcing them to sit during the game. And injuries with Rey Maualuga and Carlos Dunlap allowed an opportunity for Roddrick Muckelroy and Jamaal Anderson to start Thursday's game.