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Bengals downed by Buccaneers, 25-11: Winston shines while Cincinnati's starters sleepwalk

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The Bengals' starters did a 180 from their dominant preseason opener versus the Giants and trudged through the first half. It didn't get much better for the final two quarters either.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

If you were expecting the Cincinnati Bengals to look like the same team who utterly dominated the New York Giants about a week ago, I hope you didn't watch the team on Monday Night Football--at least not through the first half. If you didn't believe the "Bengals in primetime" stigma, maybe the debacle in South Florida against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made you a believer, even if it was just a preseason contest.

In true Bengal fashion, the defense allowed first overall pick, Jameis Winston, to shine. Sure he misfired on a couple of throws, but scrambled for a touchdown, which has never been his forte, and hit some nice mid-range throws. Combine that with an atrocious offensive performance by the starters, and there you have it.

The Ugly First Quarter:

No pressure on the quarterback from the rebuilt defensive line, multiple penalties and an inept performance by an offense that was dominant last week and you had a 7-0 deficit. Need to know more? Tampa Bay had 137 total yards to Cincinnati's 20 (actually minus-two net with sacks, etc.). Missed tackles and an air of laziness made a Buccaneers offense look efficient after a dumpster fire 2014 campaign.

Dalton was 1-for-3 passing for 14 yards and Jeremy Hill had just five yards on the ground. By contrast, Winston had eight completions to seven different receivers, while Doug Martin channeled his 2012 rookie campaign with six carries for 59 yards. If you thought you were ready to lose your lunch early, the second quarter didn't provide any Pepto-Bismol.

The "Everybody Is To Blame" Second Quarter:

After a sack and pressure in back-to-back snaps by the Bengals' defense, they were poised to get the ball back after it seemed like Bucs points were a certainty. Somehow Tampa Bay was able to down the ball at the one-yard line, pinning the Bengals deep. Dalton hit a nice throw to A.J. Green to get them out from being right outside their own end zone and it looked like things had settled down.

Then, as it often happens with the Bengals in primetime, things snowballed.

Green had a perfect throw bounce off of his hands and into the loving arms of Alterraun Verner. The result? A return for a touchdown to get the rout started. This one wasn't on Dalton, as Green had, for a lack of better words, a brain fart.

Not to be outdone by his Pro Bowl wide receiver, Dalton had one of his own signature primetime moments with an awful overthrow to Tyler Eifert. The big tight end tried to climb the ladder, but it didn't make any difference, as the interception set up the Buccaneers for another touchdown.

Start naming bad plays or horrible possibilities the Bengals could face in a prime time game. The starting offensive unit mustered three points against a team that won just two games last season. George Iloka got dinged up while breaking up a fight, Dre Kirkpatrick got beat on a touchdown pass and Tyler Eifert got rocked in the area where he was lost for the season in 2014. A Jeremy Hill fumble and an illegal contact by Troy Hill on a third-and-16 extended a two-minute drill drive by Tampa Bay and all areas were hit.

However you slice it, the Bengals were dominated to the tune of 23-3 at the halftime gun. One of the only saving graces was a Tom Obarski field goal after a long pass interference penalty that Marvin Jones forced. Marvin Lewis wasn't pleased at the half, stating: "Obviously we couldn't get anything going offensively. ... And then we have the turnovers and you know what happens then". He followed it with: "Defensively we have to get the ball tackled. I said I thought we tackled well last week, tonight was a step backward."

The AJ McCarron-Filled Second Half:

Usually, when the backups enter a preseason game, it's when things get sloppy, but it really couldn't have gotten any worse than what transpired in the first 30 minutes of play. The long-awaited in-game debut of McCarron finally took stage in South Florida, Penalties, drops and poor protection didn't aid the former Crimson Tide champion, leading to two three-and-outs in his first two NFL drives. He didn't help himself often either, with a couple of questionable throws like the one below, which was also his first as a pro in a game.

Mike Glennon picked apart the Bengals defense, mostly due to a variety of defensive penalties on the secondary, but the defense ended up flexing its muscle a bit. Facing a first-and-goal after a Chris Lewis-Harris pass interference penalty, the defense ended up stymying the Buccaneers offense on four straight plays, capped by a nice tackle-for-loss on fourth down by rookie linebacker, P.J. Dawson.

Then, as the trend of the evening continued, even when things went well, it immediately followed with disaster. The Bengals offense allowed a safety on a run attempt on first down following the nice goal line stand. Cedric Peerman was swallowed up on his first carry of the night to give Tampa Bay two more points and a 25-3 lead.

Glennon exited the game as the fourth quarter commenced and ended the evening 10-of-15 passing for 121 yards and a touchdown pass. Winston was 8-of-13 for 90 yards and a rushing touchdown. Neither committed a turnover. McCarron settled in at the end of the game to lead the team to a touchdown drive with smart dump-off passes and eluding of pressure. He finished the evening 10-of-14 for 82 yards.

Some Actual Bengals Highlight Moments:

Though they were few and far between, the Bengals did have a few positives on the evening.

* McCarron settled in toward the end of the game, hitting Peerman for a couple of dump-off passes and two nice slants to Jake Kumerow. Their final drive of the evening led to a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

* Talk about making the most of one's opportunities. James Wilder, Jr. touched the ball three times and had a huge impact on each. One was a 10-yard first down run, another was a rushing touchdown and the last was a two-point conversion. Nice night for the youngster making a homecoming to Tampa Bay. He also had a special teams tackle.

* As mentioned earlier, the rookie Dawson was flying around making plays in the second half. Jon Gruden at one point declared, "I think Dawson has made four high-impact tackles in this game". Not bad after a mediocre showing in the preseason opener.

* Rookie tight end Tyler Kroft had a couple of nice catches after getting blanked in the opener. He had two catches for 20 yards on the night.

* It appears that the Bengals have averted disaster on the injury front after a couple of scary moments. Ian Rapoport with the NFL Network said Iloka's injury was just a kneecap bruise, and though Eifert was in visible pain from a shot he took, early indications say it doesn't appear to be anything serious.

* Mario Alford finally flashed some of that kick return ability with a nice punt return at the end of the game. A 19-yard sprint which was sprung by multiple big blocks.

* Rookie Jake Kumerow had a nice night at the end of the game and finished with three receptions for 42 yards.