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What just happened: Bengals beat Buccaneers in preseason Week 1

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Great moments by Joe Mixon, Jordan Willis, Jeff Driskel and both Bengals kickers made for a great night in the Queen City as Cincinnati won its preseason opener.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have won their first game of the 2017 NFL preseason. Woo! What a relief. There didn’t look to be any major injuries, though KeiVarae Russell and Brandon Bell both exited the game in the final two minutes with what looked to be minor injuries. Darqueze Dennard also had a brief scare, but quickly was back on the field.

Here are a few of the top moments and takeaways from the Bengals’ preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was a 23-12 victory for the home team.

Jake Elliott started things off with the opening kickoff, though overall, Randy Bullock saw more playing time. Both kickers had a great night and the battle for the roster spot is going to be tighter than we originally thought when Elliott was drafted in the fifth round this year.

It wasn an all that encouraging start from the Bengals’ defense on the opening drive. Darqueze Dennard, starting at left cornerback, gave up a 29-yard pass to Mike Evans at the start of the game. That was far from encouraging to see from the 2014 first round pick who’s competing with William Jackson III to start in place of Adam Jones during his Week 1 suspension.

Jackson, who started on the left side at cornerback in place of Dre Kirkpatrick (who did not play) had a nice tackle in the open field a few moments later in which Doug Martin picked up two yards on the ground.

Though the Buccaneers got down the field pretty effortlessly on the opening drive, the Bengals’ defense stopped them on third down in the red zone and they had to settle for a field goal to open the scoring, giving the Bucs a 3-0 lead.

Jones played in the nickel for all of the first drive, which is a new look for him. Though, it may just have been because the team was looking to see how Dennard and Jackson looked on the boundary. They both saw a lot of action through the first half of the game.

Mixon got three snaps on the Bengals’ opening drive, though Jeremy Hill started and got plenty of work, too. Hill exited the game in the first quarter with seven rushing attempts for 26 yards (an average of 3.7 yards per attempt) including a long of nine.

Among the first guys in when the starters came out on defense were rookie defensive end Jordan Willis, veteran defensive end Brandon Thompson, defensive end Will Clarke and defensive tackle Pat Sims. The Buccaneers starting offense largely remained in though, which was a good test for them. Linebackers Kevin Minter and Nick Vigil also stayed in for the second drive. Vigil is stepping into a starting role, as is Minter who joined the team this offseason after spending his first four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, who selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Cody Core caught a nice 17 yard pass from AJ McCarron on the second drive for the offense. And shortly after Tyler Boyd grabbed an eight yard pass. That was nice to see from the second-year receiving duo, who are both looking to take on a larger role in the offense this year.

Mixon then showed off his ability with an 11 yard catch, followed by a six-yard gain on the ground. He had another attempt that resulted in no positive yardage, but still, the rookie running back looked good out there, and the offensive line didn’t do a bad job either in helping him out. He stayed in for most of the first half of the game and in addition to the one catch had 31 yards on six rushing attempts for an average of 5.1 yards per carry.

Elliott made his first NFL field goal with just more than one minute remaining in the first half of the game. It came from a distance of 45-yards and was a great moment for the rookie kicker who was the first player selected at his position in the draft. The field goal brought the Bengals within three, 9-6.

The Bengals’ rookie duo of Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis also had a good showing on Friday night.

Willis had the team’s first sack with 23 seconds to go in the first half.

First half stats on offense:

Andy Dalton: 4/5 for 38 yards and 1 interception; passer rating of 58.8

AJ McCarron: 5/8 for 49 yards; passer rating 79.7

A.J. Green 2/2 for 21 yards; long of 13

Cody Core: 1/2 for 17 yards

Brandon LaFell 1/2 for 13 yards

Alex Erickson: 1/2 for 9 yards

Tyler Boyd 1/1 for 8 yards

Tyler Eifert 1/1 for 4 yards

Josh Malone 1/1 for 4 yards

Jeremy Hill 0/1 in the passing game; 7 rushing attempts for 26 yards; long of 9

Joe Mixon 1/1 for 11 yards in the passing game; 6 rushing attempts for 31 yards; long of 13

First half stats on defense:

Nick Vigil: 3 solo tackles, 3 assisted tackles

William Jackson; 3 solo tackles

Shawn Williams: 1 solo tackle, 2 assisted tackles

Jordan Willis: 2 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 sack for a loss of 7 yards

Vinny Rey: 2 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle

Jordan Evans: 2 solo tackles

Geno Atkins: 2 assisted tackles

Derron Smith: 2 solo tackles

Darqueze Dennard: 2 assisted tackles

Clayton Fejedelem: 1 solo tackle, 1 assisted tackle

Kevin Minter: 2 solo tackles

Vontaze Burfict: 2 assisted tackles

Josh Shaw: 1 solo tackle

Hardy Nickerson: 1 solo tackle

Brandon Thompson: 1 solo tackle

Carl Lawson: 1 assisted tackle

Andrew Billings: 1 assisted tackle

Second half:

Jeff Driskel, who entered for the first drive of the third quarter was star of the second half. On his opening drive he went two-for-two for 43 yards and ran the ball 18 yards for a touchdown. In his opening drive he had a 118.8 passer rating. His passes went to Tra Carson (who was looking pretty great with a big 23-yard gain through the air as well as a nice five yard run a few plays later) and Alex Erickson, who caught a 20 yard pass from Driskel.

Randomly, there were fireworks during the game, which lasted quite a while and were a huge distraction to everyone.

Driskel led another touchdown drive minutes later, marching down the field with ease as Erickson caught a 21 yard pass, Carson ran for 16 yards and then 6 yards and then, he threw an 8-yard pass to Josh Malone, who scored his first NFL touchdown seven minutes into the third quarter. Elliott made the PAT that followed.

Chris Smith looked pretty good throughout the game, getting pressure while coming off both sides.

The offensive line wasn’t as bad as expected throughout the game. The first time a quarterback was sacked was with less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter as Driskel was brought down by Sterling Bailey of the Buccaneers.

Overall, the game shed a lot of positive light on the Bengals. The offensive line was better than expected—even though Cedric Ogbuehi had some bad moments. The kicking game was great. The rookie pass rushers looked impressive, as did Chris Smith, who the team traded for this offseason. The starting defense didn’t look sharp, and Andy Dalton threw a red zone interception, but it’s Week 1 of the preseason. Let’s not overreact to the starters, let’s focus on the young guys and depth players, who are what the preseason is really all about.

What were your top takeaways from the Bengals’ preseason opener?