It was a nice rebound for a team who had a terrible showing (once again) on the national stage on a short week. As the Cincinnati Bengals returned home for their "dress rehearsal" in Week 3 of the preseason, they quelled a lot of worries that popped up from their deplorable performance on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We take a look at the best and worst from the Bengals (and others) on Saturday night against the Chicago Bears.
Bengals' Quarterback Play: Andy Dalton was literally perfect in his lone, clock-eating drive of the night, going six-for-six and 52 yards. Dalton also added 16 yards on the ground and accounted for 68 of 73 total yards on the 16-play drive. Not to be outdone, AJ McCarron was perfect at the halftime gun and finished the night, going 12-for-17 for 149 yards and a touchdown. While it's nice to see a capable backup performance, we must add the disclaimer: the starting quarterback job is Dalton's in 2015--there is no controversy.
Rex Burkhead, The Able Slot Receiver: The Bengals need trustworthy guys at wideout beyond their "big three" of A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. With Denarius Moore now gone, might the Bengals give their trust in a guy who has played running back his whole life? Burkhead made plays as a wide receiver once again on Saturday night, including a 25-yard back shoulder grab to extend to monster 16-play first offensive series.
Nice Rebounds For A.J. Green And Tyler Eifert: Monday night was a rough showing for two of the biggest (figuratively and literally) passing weapons for the Bengals' offense. Eifert took a shot to the elbow, (the one he injured last year) dropped a pass in the process and came up grimacing, and also saw another pass intended for him sail over his head for an interception. He came back Saturday night with two catches for 30 yards, including a 25-yarder to set up a subsequent Jeremy Hill touchdown. After seeing a perfect pass bounce off of his hands for a pick-six against Tampa Bay, Green had two nice catches, including a one-hander.
Ryan Hewitt: This guy plows people. Though the Bengals struggled to punch it in on their first series, Hewitt played well throughout the game and even contributed as a pass-catcher. This undrafted diamond in the rough is a valuable member of the Bengals' offense.
Marvin Jones: Dude was torching defensive backs on Saturday night. He began to flash the return of his big-play ability against the Buccaneers when he got a pass interference called against his defensive back after beating him deep, but it really re-surfaced this weekend. He had a 40-plus yarder wiped out by a penalty, but still snagged a 31-yard touchdown, complete with high-effort for the last few yards.
Some Young Defensive Studs Re-Appear: Really only Geno Atkins played well up front against the Bucs, but he among others showed up big on Saturday night. Dunlap joined No. 97 as forces up front, with others like George Iloka, Wallace Gilberry, P.J. Dawson and Chris Carter all making plays. It was a solid group effort after they were mostly manhandled earlier in the week.
Bengals Showing Up For "Dress Rehearsal": Though much of preseason is taken with a grain of salt, the third game is the one where fans and coaches want to see the best performance by the team. While they took it to the Giants in the opener, it could be argued the beating of the Bears was more impressive. Some mistakes still need to be sured up, but the play was far more crisp on a short week. Message received, Coach Lewis.
Statistical Disparity: The Bengals led the Bears in almost every notable positive stat category. They had 11 more first downs, 139 more yards and outgunned them by almost a yard per play. Cincinnati was dynamite in the red zone with a 100% touchdown rate and were far improved on third downs with a 57% conversion rate. The biggest stat? Their hogging of the football for 13:44 more than Chicago.
Jeff Triplette And Co.: The veteran referee had a busy night to the tune of 21 total penalties (12 against the Bears, nine on the Bengals). Some were questionable and many seemed to take an eternity to sort out. There were a couple of views on Hill's third-and-goal run that appeared to show him crossing the end zone, but Triplette disagreed. Hey, it's the preseason for the refs too, right?
Giovani Bernard: Is it time to worry about the third-year back, yet? He has had next to nothing this preseason, production-wise, even though they are giving him looks in three different capacities (running back, receiver, kick/punt returner). Against the Bears, Bernard had three carries for six yards, two catches for nine yards and fair caught one punt. We know what No. 25 brings, but this preseason has been uninspiring while the team has attempted to get creative with him.
Other Running Backs Not Named "Hill" Or "Watson": While Hill and Watson each had a productive night, combining for 20 carries, 86 yards and a score. the other running backs, Bernard, James Wilder, Jr., and Cedric Peerman combined for 11 carries for 30 yards and a lost fumble. Take away what you'd like from those numbers.
A Startling Lack Of Forced Turnovers: Unfortunately, this is been a trend for the Bengals all preseason. Even though their defense was physical and forced nine punts, they just aren't getting those big momentum-swinging plays. The pass rush is better from 2014, but needs more and the defensive backs need to start getting their hands on the football.
Jake Fisher: The rookie had one of those "welcome to the league" nights this weekend. Fisher landed a -9.0 overall Pro Football Focus score, allowing sacks and committing three penalties. Yikes.
The Kick Return Game: For Bengals fans wanting to see Brandon Tate replaced on kick return duties, there is good and bad news. The good new for you haters: Tate hasn't done much of anything to hang on to his job. The bad? Nobody else really has either. Mario Alford has had a couple of nice punt returns and popped a 15-yarder on Saturday, but he still looks a little lost on kickoffs. The team had four punt returns for 27 yards and two kickoff returns for 29 yards.