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Bengals at Lions: Depth tested as Bengals beat Lions, 30-14

The Bengals starters continued to look solid while backups stepped up to the plate in the team’s preseason matchup against the Lions on Thursday night.

Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Bengals traveled to Detroit for their first away game of the 2016 preseason and were quickly reintroduced to old friend Marvin Jones who on the opening drive of the game tallied three receptions for 56 yards. To open the game, the Bengals defense gave up big plays (mostly to Jones) but also showed a similar mentality from 2015 by shutting down the Lions in the redzone and forcing them to settle for a field goal after making it down to the Detroit 22 yard line.

Rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd started the game in place of the injured Brandon LaFell and immediately made his presence felt with a sliding catch for 26 yards on third down. A.J. Green also got into the action early with 7-yard and 15-yard catches on the opening drive. But, it was Jeremy Hill who ran the ball in for the opening touchdown to cap off an efficient 79 yard drive in which Dalton went 5/5 with 63 passing yards.

On the Lions' second drive of the game, the Bengals defense woke up and Carlos Dunlap sacked Matthew Stafford, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Lions. The Bengals’ defense looked more solid in their second attempt on the field, but the opposite was true for the offense.

Jake Fisher hurt his ankle during the second offensive drive and ended up being carted off the field. That’s not a good thing for a team that already lost Cedric Ogbuehi in the preseason opener due to a toe injury. Making things worse for Fisher, he had about 100 family members and friends in attendance at the game, as he’s from Traverse City, Michigan, just a few hours north of Detroit. Eric Winston took over for Fisher when he left the game and stayed in at right tackle through the third quarter.

At that point, most of the offensive starters exited the game. Dalton ended his evening 7/9 for 78 yards, Hill had three rushing attempts for 16 yards including a 9-yard touchdown. Giovani Bernard was less effective getting only two rushing attempts that yielded two yards. Among the starting receivers, Boyd went 2/3 for 38 yards and a touchdown, Brandon Tate also showed up hauling in 2/3 targets for 23 yards. And, Green finished the night with 2 catches on 2 targets for 22 yards. Both Hill and Bernard added a reception each, Bernard for a 6-yard gain and Hill for a 1-yard gain.

One player who didn’t catch a pass on Thursday night was tight end C.J. Uzomah who had a great training camp but has yet to show up in the preseason and make the plays we saw on the practice fields.

Derron Smith had the play of the second half (and maybe of the game) as he intercepted a Dan Orlovsky pass intended for Zach Zenner and took it 60-yards for a pick six. Unfortunately, Mike Nugent missed the ensuing extra point, his second miss (first extra point miss) of the preseason, keeping the lead at 13-6.

AJ McCarron took over with 4:33 left in the second half and seemed to want to make a connection work with James Wright, that unfortunately, wasn’t working. McCarron threw four consecutive passes to Wright, only one of which was caught for five yards. A few plays later, McCarron was able to connect with Wright for an 11-yard gain.

Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead got into the action with a few nice plays, both in the passing and running games. He quickly showed the versatility that the Bengals would be smart to utilize this season, especially with so many injuries and uncertainty among the receivers. Burkhead almost fumbled the ball in the third quarter, but the referees called him down by contact and after the Lions challenged the call, it was upheld.

On the same drive, Burkhead caught a 12-yard pass, bringing the Bengals to the 3-yard line and ran for a yard after that to get them to the 2-yard line, but also had a run for -3 yards, coupled with a Jeff Luc offensive holding penalty that backed up the Bengals. With that, Boyd came to the rescue with his first NFL touchdown, a 12-yard catch from McCarron that looked easy. Fortunately, Nugent made the extra point, extending the Bengals lead 20-6 right before halftime.

“I'm pleased with the rotation with our first group on offense," Marvin Lewis said at halftime. "Defensively we settled down after a not-so-great start and turned in some good plays. It's good for our first defense to play against a good offense like this in the preseason."

The second half started with rookies Cody Core and Alex Erickson as the wide receivers as McCarron remained under center. Core quickly got involved with 13-yard catch in the opening minute of the half.

Another strong offensive drive that stretched 62 yards down the field ended with a Nugent miss from 45 yards out, bringing up the question of whether the Bengals need to consider signing another kicker. At this point, Nugent was one of three on field goals during the preseason. The Bengals are at the 90-man limit and would need to cut someone to sign an additional player.

A Floyd Raven interception of Jake Rudock, returned 26 yards to the Detroit 37 yard line brought in Keith Wenning to take over for McCarron. Wenning wasn’t able to get much done, but finally, Nugent nailed a 50-yard field goal to make the score 23-6.

After a nice drive featuring a few solid runs from Bronson Hill and Tra Carson, Wenning ran the ball in for a 1-yard for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 30-6 lead (Nugent made the extra point) with 4:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter featured some sloppy play from the defense. With less than a minute to play, the Bengals’ defense let up their first touchdown of the game, a 5-yard rushing play by Dwayne Washington, who then also ran in a 2-point conversion moments later to make the score 30-14, which was the final score.

For the second consecutive preseason game Nick Vigil led the team in tackles, though there were quite a few players who tied him in the stat with 4 (Chykie Brown, Michael Johnson, Chris Lewis-Harris, Marquis Flowers, Josh Shaw and Vinny Rey).

On offense, the team remained consistent throughout, scoring on a rushing play, a passing play, and quarterback sneak, with each coming with different quarterbacks under center.

Despite their plentiful injuries, the Bengals still looked solid in their second game of the preseason and their depth players look prepared to step up and make plays while their teammates recover.

Return game notes

  • Rex Burkhead got the first kick return of the game for the Bengals, a 30 yard run out to the Bengals' 26-yard line. He looked good and decisive running it out.
  • Tyler Boyd returned the first Lions punt of the game 24 yards to the 29-yard line.
  • Brandon Tate called for a fair catch on the next punt return.
  • Tate’s next opportunity was actually a pretty solid one as he returned a kick 36 yards to the Bengals’ 33-yard line and looked good in doing so.
  • Tate got yet another kickoff return, which he took out to the Cincinnati 21 yard line for a 16 yard gain, but a Jayson DiManche was called for a 10-yard holding penalty on the play.
  • Alex Erickson got a chance in the return game in the fourth quarter and didn’t disappoint. He brought the ball out 30 yards to the Detroit 31-yard line and showed traits in his return that looked quite similar to that of Adam Jones. Erickson mentioned this week he's been studying Jones closely, so that should come as no surprise.