SLOW START LEADS TO IMPRESSIVE POSSESSIONS
The first-team offense had a slow start on Saturday.
Following a 17-yard reception by Marvin Jones on Cincinnati's first offensive play of the game, the Bengals gained two yards on two plays leading to a third down. Dalton, under intense pressure, has the football swiped from his hands from defensive tackle Jurrell Casey with over eight minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Are you serious?
First Atlanta, where mental mistakes wiped out possible momentum-shifting possessions, the Bengals open with a disastrous possession. Preseason or not, you block the other guy and secure the football when you're under assault.
Before we're led to a completely overblown venting session, the eyes remained fixed on the action to see what happened next.
Fortunately, the Bengals defense stiffened up and held the Titans to a three and out directly leading to a botched Rob Bironas 38-yard attempt.
Then Cincinnati's offense went crazy. And we nearly became labeled as negative nancies.
And you can thank one of Cincinnati's biggest weapons.
On their second possession of the game, Giovani Bernard took over. A series of well-placed parameter blocks and free-running routes out of the backfield, Bernard gained 48 yards on Cincinnati's 72-yard drive, giving Cincinnati a 7-3 lead.
JOHN SKELTON IS THE FIRST
Not Josh Johnson.
So impressive was his performance against the Falcons last week, the Bengals coaching staff elected to bring Skelton into the game early in the second quarter. He had a couple of nice throws, especially one to Tyler Eifert down the seem that gained 25 yards.
During his first possession of the game, Skelton led the Bengals on a 53-yard drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal. He'd only play three possessions.
FIRST HALF BEASTS
The Bengals offense had five possessions in the first half, scoring two touchdowns, a field goal, punt (to end the first half) and a fumble (that led to no points).
It was the defense that took an impressive tone. Despite allowing three possessions that gained 40 yards or more, the Titans only scored three points in the first half with a bend-but-don't-break philosophy. Greatly helping Cincinnati's effort was a horrible result from Titans place kickers. Rob Bironas missed two field goals and rookie Maikon Bonani missed his 47-yard attempt late in the first half.
Dalton completed nine of 14 passes for 115 yards passing with a touchdown and passer rating of 113.7.
But it was Giovani Bernard who won the first half MVP, generating 37 yards rushing and scoring a touchdown to give Cincinnati a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. He added a 22-yard reception on a quick flair route out of the backfield, down the left sidelines.
JOSH JOHNSON ENTERS THE GAME
With 10:33 remaining in the third quarter, Johnson became the third quarterback to enter the game for the Bengals. Now much happened. After consecutive runs for Rex Burkhead that gained five yards combined, Johnson slightly threw behind Cobi Hamilton's slant, deflected by the defender for an incomplete.
His greatest performance would come later.
THE BIG PLAY DRIVE
Late in the third quarter, following Tennessee's 13-play touchdown drive, the Bengals have the football at their own eight-yard line. Six plays later, Cincinnati takes a 24-12 lead.
With :11 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Josh Johnson fires a second down pass to Cobi Hamilton on a quick slant. Hamilton shed off an attempted tackle and sprinted 30 yards down the sidelines to Tennessee's 45-yard line.
Following a Josh Johnson five-yard scramble, the Bengals have second and five from the Titans 40-yard line.
Johnson hands off to Dan Herron and immediately finds bodies congesting the line of scrimmage. It was your run-of-the-mill off tackle to the right.
There was nothing there. Guys like Cedric Benson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis go into "gain as many yards as possible" mode in the past, which in the NFL makes the most sense. But these are second and third team defenders, so why not make the most of it?
Herron redirects to the left.
With the Tennessee Titans front seven completely collapsing inside, Herron bounces around the left edge.
For his part, Johnson is lead blocking for Herron, escorting him down the sidelines. When Herron approaches the endzone, the running back jumps as he's being forced out of bounds and swipes the football over the goalline for the touchdown to take a 24-12 lead.
...the Bengals backup quarterback competition is enjoyable. Neither John Skelton or Josh Johnson are relenting and the competition is making both perform better.
...Dan Herron made a case for inclusion on the 53-man roster. Despite playing against mostly second and third team defenders, the second-year running back generated a team-leading 81 yards on the ground.
...Rex Burkhead, battling Herron for the fourth and final spot on the running back roster (assuming they keep four), added 31 yards on six carries and a 5.2 yard/rush average.
...Rookie safety generated a team-high ten tackles, playing a majority of the game behind starter Taylor Mays, who replaced George Iloka. According to Dave Lapham during the broadcast, Iloka was upset during practice this week and slammed hand into someone's helmet, injuring his wrist.
...The first team offensive line wasn't very good. Kyle Cook committed his third penalty of the preseason, and even Kevin Zeitler was struggling to maintain in pass protection.
...Continuing from the previous point, Andy Dalton was hit a lot. At one point he ankle turned outward, forcing the medial staff to re-tape the quarterback's foot. Dalton played three snaps and showed signs of feeling the ankle (a slight grimace mostly), but wasn't noticeably limping.
...Most of the first team offense played the entire first half, with the biggest exception being Dalton who only played three possessions. The Bengals scored two touchdowns with Dalton and 17 points with the first team offense, along with 220 yards of total offense.
...Great reception by Roy Roundtree with with 9:36 remaining in the fourth quarter. After making the catch one-yard shy of the first down, Roundtree had a great stop-step and picked up a chunk of yards.
...On the following play with 8:57 remaining in the game, Rex Burkhead filtered through awesome blocks by Dennis Roland and Bryce Davis to gain 22 yards on an off-tackle to the right.
...Josh Johnson nearly scored a 21-yard touchdown on a scramble with over five minutes remaining in the game. However, as he approached the three-yard line, Richard Quinn (a spectator like the rest of us) was in the way and accidentally knocked Johnson over. Johnson didn't help his cause when he fumbled away the football on a naked bootleg with 1:54 remaining in the game inside the redzone.
...Devon Still recorded the first quarterback of the game of the Bengals defense with over four minutes remaining in the game. Not impressed. Still made the stop when the quarterback felt pressure on the edges and dropped the passer, forcing the Titans to punt. Dontay Moch added a sack late in the fourth quarter by fighting through the left tackle's block.