Cincinnati will kickoff their third preseason game Saturday night (8 p.m, ET) in Dallas. Now the third preseason game is generally called the dress rehearsal because teams typically play their respective first-team units. However important is the dress rehearsal? In truth, not much. It helps individual players get ready for the usual routines and the starters play longer, but the scores and performances are rarely indicative of the regular season.
During the Marvin Lewis era, the Bengals have only won two of the ten dress rehearsals during the Marvin Lewis era, and in each of those losses the Bengals were outscored by an average 11 points per game... at half time. To be clear, that's how the first team unit is performing through the first two quarters when the starters are clearly dominating the number of snaps. Let's take a look at the most recent contests.
2012: Green Bay Packers 27, Cincinnati Bengals 13
Dalton and the first-team offense only played the first series into the third quarter and by this time the Packers had already secured a 17-6 lead. Of the seven possessions with Dalton under quarterback, the Bengals went three and out four times, converted two field goals and turned the ball over on down.
It was bad.
Dalton only completed five of 17 passes for 40 yards passing with a passer rating of 39.6 (lowest among all quarterbacks that played). However, our fearless starting quarterback led the team with 36 yards rushing (thanks to a 28-yard sprint with 3:23 remaining in the first quarter. Take away Dalton's yardage on the ground and the rushing offense only generated 32 yards on 15 carries.
Does that translate to the regular season to you? No.
2011: Cincinnati Bengals 24, Carolina Panthers 13
Dalton's evening was finished at half time, completing 11 of 17 passes for 130 yards passing, including a 40-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green. As a team, the offense rushed for 191 yards on 41 carries, led by Cedric Benson's 68 yards, followed by Bernard Scott (63 yards) and Cedric Peerman (36 yards).
The first-team offense, with Dalton under center, had six possessions, scoring three touchdowns, a field goal while giving up a first quarter fumble and a 46-yard punt that was muffed at the 12-yard line -- Scott scored the touchdown on the following run.
Cincinnati's defense held Cam Newton in the battle of rookie quarterbacks to only six of 19 passing with 75 yards.
2010: Buffalo Bills 35, Cincinnati Bengals 20
Say what you want about him, but when he was on his game, Carson Palmer was deadly. He completed nine of 11 passes for 95 yards passing, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 142.2. Cincinnati scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions (the non-touchdown drive ended with a failed fourth down conversion by Cedric Benson).
Palmer didn't play the third quarter at all, but it didn't matter. For some reason Buffalo had Cincinnati's number that year, cruising to a 35-point victory with Ryan Fitzpatrck and Trent Edwards combing for 19 of 26 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Buffalo would repeat the domination in week 11 later that year.
2009: St. Louis Rams 24, Cincinnati Bengals 21
Despite Quan Cosby opening the scoring with a first quarter touchdown on a 49-yard punt return, Samkon Gado scored twice in the first quarter to give St. Louis a 14-7 lead. Carson Palmer didn't play and J.T. O'Sullivan's offense fumbled on their first possession.
Finally the team just decided to rely on the running game, which set the stage for Cincinnati's 2009 offensive philosophy, generating 141 yards rushing on 32 carries. In the end, the first team offense was pulled down by a touchdown.
2008: New Orleans Saints 13, Cincinnati Bengals 0
Forever known as the bloody-nose Carson Palmer game, this was one of those rare times that a preseason game translated into the regular season.
In other words, we knew that they were in trouble.
Chris Perry generated only 32 rushing (a preview to the season) and Palmer was beaten bloody with three first-half sacks -- he would miss 12 games that year when his elbow was hit during his throwing motion. Cincinnati posted 11 possessions in this game and the first ten ended with a punt; the final ended with a Jordan Palmer interception.