It just wasn't a good day for Cincinnati's first-team units on Thursday. Cincinnati's offense ran six plays, gaining five yards and no first downs on their opening two possessions. Alternatively Green Bay scored 14 points on their opening three possessions, abusing Cincinnati's containment with quarterback Aaron Rodgers scrambling six times for 52 yards rushing. Look at this simplistic comparison between the quarterbacks during Thursday's game. Rodgers rushed for more yards than Andy Dalton passed (40), who completed only five of 17 passes.
In truth Cincinnati's first-team offense couldn't overpower Green Bay's complicated 3-4 defense, generating only 87 yards on 29 plays and converting one of seven third down opportunities in the first half. It was such an ineffective effort by the Bengals first-team offense, most of them returned to the field in the third quarter, minus several of Green Bay's key defensive players. Cincinnati failed to generate a first down and punted the football after three plays. Now they're one of eight on third down.
The second-team offense and defense played better (we list those under impressions below) but most of the concern this week will surround Cincinnati's otherwise ineffective offense. Moving on.
- Geno Atkins resumed his dominance from Atlanta last week.. and the week before that and the two seasons before that. Following a screen pass during Green Bay's opening possession, Atkins dominated the Packers offensive line tackling Alex Green for a non-gain on a run. On third down with nine yards needed from midfield, Rodgers dropped back and Atkins immediately splits the offensive line, pressuring Rodgers into a poor throw, forcing Green Bay to punt.
- Bengals defense stepped up at the two minute warning. Jeromy Miles deflected a pass into the flats for an incomplete. Thomas Howard fought off a Jeff Saturday block during a blitz, wrapping Aaron Rodgers for the quarterback sack, and a 16-yard Donald Driver reception on third down, well short of the first down led to a fourth down attempt. Jeromy Miles with good coverage on Greg Jennings, flips his right hand out and deflects the football giving the Bengals the football at Cincinnati's 45-yard line with a minute remaining in first half. Cincinnati's offense wiped out the clock, but failed to pick up a first down.
- Cornerback Terence Newman picked off an Aaron Rodgers pass and gained 30 yards, eventually leading to a Mike Nugent field goal in the second quarter. It was almost like a reenactment from Madden. You know what I'm talking about, throwing a deep pass and the cornerback has their back to the quarterback. As the football approaches, their spidey sense tingles and they turn, catch the football and return the interception. That was Newman.
- Linebacker Vontaze Burfict continues showing incredible instincts and athleticism. After sticking the running back on a run up the middle, Burfict laid out to deflect a third down pass, forcing a punt midway through the third quarter.
- Rookie wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu caught consecutive passes with over six minutes remaining in the third. Gradkowski hit Jones on a ten-yard hitch near the left sidelines. On the following play, Sanu hauled in an eight-yard pass on a slant from the right.
- Speaking of Marvin Jones. Following a Micah Johnson recovered fumble due to a botched exchange between Graham Harrell and John Kuhn, Bruce Gradkowski fired a pass to Jones' back shoulder near the front left pylon, scoring a touchdown and reducing Green Bay's lead to four points midway through the third quarter.
- With 13:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy blitzed up the middle, nearly untouched as he recorded a quarterback sack on Harrell.
- Under nine minutes remaining with Green Bay on Cincinnati's nine-yard line on second-and-five. Dontay Moch fired off the right side, was held throughout most of his pass rush, and still sacked Harrell for the nine-yard loss. The nines, baby.
Concerns (mostly first-team defense)
- Cincinnati's defensive front seven failed beyond comprehension containing Aaron Rodgers, who scrambled like an Olympic sprinter against players with concrete feet. They weren't particularly good against the run in general, allowing 92 yards rushing in the first half.
- Cornerback Leon Hall didn't play particularly well, presumably still knocking the rust off body before the regular season opener (where it starts to count). His tackling and coverages were off. He eventually recovered to help stall another Green Bay possession midway through the second quarter.
- The Cincinnati Bengals had first down from their own one-yard line. They subsequently fell apart. Andy Dalton floated a pass to Green into the end zone that should have been picked off with Williams having superior position. Cedric Peerman lost two yards on the following play and the drive ended on a quarterback sack. They were forced to kick a field goal in the second quarter.
- Andy Dalton's deep pass wasn't there at all tonight. Underthrown, overthrown, everything but perfectly thrown.
There was a concern that Andy Dalton suffered an injury during his sole third quarter appearance. However there were no injury reports during the game and he was seen talking with the quarterbacks and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden during the fourth quarter. Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur left the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter and didn't return.
Vincent Rey was injured midway through the fourth quarter, but walked off the field under his own power and Manny Lawson left at some point in the first quarter with a groin.
STARTING LINEUP NOTES
Nate Clements and Reggie Nelson started the game at safety. However don't read too much into it just yet. Clements moved to cornerback alongside Terence Newman on second down. Also Armon Binns started the game as the No. 2 wide receiver.
CEDRIC BENSON'S RETURN
Before the game Cedric Benson exchanged handshakes and hugs with several Bengals players and coaches, including defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and cornerback Adam Jones. Benson finished with 38 yards rushing on six carries.
CAPTAINS OF THE GAME
Donald Lee, Michael Johnson, Chris Pressley, Jeromy Miles and Thomas Howard
The usual suspects didn't play in Thursday's game against the Packers, especially at cornerback. Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones, Brandon Ghee, Jason Allen and Shaun Prater sat, along with Robert Sands, Rey Maualuga, Tony Dye and DeQuin Evans completing a rather lengthy infirmary list. Guys like Robert Geathers, Carlos Dunlap, Bernard Scott and most likely Jermaine Gresham aren't expected to return during the preseason, and it's questionable if running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will play his second preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts next week. Pat Sims remains on the Injured Reserve.