The Bengals opened the preseason with a loss, but the final score in preseason games matters as much as the final score in the Pro Bowl, not at all.
What was important was seeing the Bengals offense clicking while the starters were in, the Bengals defense dominating when the starters were in and a few rookie receivers making their presence felt in their first live NFL action.
Marvin Lewis knows preseason outcomes don’t matter, but, he was disappointed in the team’s inability to score a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. The opportunity arose after rookie receiver Alex Erickson plowed through the Vikings’ coverage unit to score a touchdown on a punt return. Erickson brought the Bengals within one point late in a game in which the team trailed throughout.
“We had an opportunity there at the end of the football game to score the two pointer, even got the ball back again. So the positives of tonight is we got a lot of situations out there,” Lewis said after the game. “We got AJ McCarron in a one-minute situation and Licata got one there. And the starting defense did their thing and got out of there, the starting offense did a good job. We have a lot of work to do still, as we know.”
Lewis also wasn’t pleased with the inability to convert a fourth-and-one in the early second quarter when Cedric Peerman had the ball at the Minnesota 4-yard line and was unable to get the one-yard needed to secure a first down.. or the four yards needed for the touchdown, for that matter.
“I was pleased with some things we did tempo-wise,” Lewis said via Bengals.com. “We moved the ball and got some first downs early in the game. We converted some third-and-ones. But in the end, obviously, you’ve got to put points on the board. We’ve got to convert that fourth-and-one.”
Mike Nugent also missed a field goal and there was a great opportunity for a safety, which was not accomplished, in large part due to Margus Hunt’s inability to make a tackle.
“I count that as 12 points,” Lewis said in regards to all of the missed opportunities throughout the game. “And we gave up a big touchdown pass, so that’s a negative seven points. Those were things that happened on the bad side.”
And in case you were wondering what Lewis thought of Brandon Tate’s performance in the first preseason game, he was pleased.
“I thought some young guys emerged tonight and played, and I thought Brandon Tate did a nice job in there tonight. It’s good, it’s what we want,” Lewis said. “We want competition. We’ve got guys competing and doing things and that was a real positive tonight for that.”
Tate helped to solidify his spot on the roster on Friday night. He completed both of the passes on which he was targeted, the first throw of the game from Andy Dalton and one later in the first quarter from AJ McCarron which was an impressive 20-yard grab.
Tate also started the game off with a 24-yard kickoff return. The returner duties will be a key battle going forward. On Friday, Tyler Boyd received one punt return opportunity which went for 16 yards, but a penalty turned it into a six yard gain. Mario Alford had one punt and one kick return. His punt return went for nine yards and the kick return for 30. Bronson Hill had one kick return for 10 yards and of course, there was Erickson's 80-yard punt return. It will be interesting to see the continued battle for returning reps as the preseason continues.
The Bengals’ next preseason game is Thursday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET against the Lions in Detroit.