The Bengals probably left wishing they could have played the Bears again. Cincinnati came out and punted on its first three drives; they didn’t even reach a first down until the second quarter.
Once the backups entered the game, however, the pendulum swung the other way. Jeff Driskel and Matt Barkley led the offense to all 21 of the Bengals’ points on the evening, while the defense only gave up three points to the Cowboys’ backup offense.
After falling behind, the Bengals ended up winning 21-13.
Both teams traded punts to start the game, but the Cowboys’ offense sparked midway through the first quarter. Rod Smith broke a tackle on a screen pass from Dak Prescott and took the ball 19 yards to set up the Cowboys inside the red zone. The Bengals pass rush helped control the damage, so the Cowboys had to settle for a 35-yard Dan Bailey field goal. The Cowboys took the first lead of the game, going up 3-0 with 6:40 left in the opening quarter.
The Cowboys struck again with Smith leading the charge ag, this time with 10:47 to go in the second quarter. The Cowboys struck again with Smith leading the charge again. This time, with 10:47 to go in the second quarter, he got 41 yards on the ground on the scoring drive, while Prescott was five for seven with 43 yards through the air. The drive ended in a 6-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Williams. Bailey kicked the extra point, and the Cowboys took a 10-0 lead.
Through the first three drives for each team, the Cowboys out-gained the Bengals 135 yards to 59, and got nine first downs to the Bengals’ two. Andy Dalton ended the day with a modest five for seven with 41 yards, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Bengals competitive in the first half. The Bengals’ first teams looked completely different against the Cowboys than they did against the Bears.
The second defense looked much better as they came in late in the second quarter, forcing three three-and-outs against the Cowboys’ second offense.
Jeff Driskel came in to play with the second offense after his amazing performance last week. It was interesting to see him enter the game ahead of Matt Barkley. But, Driskel’s first drive was short. After one play, Driskel completed a pass to Tyler Boyd, but Boyd coughed up the ball and the Cowboys recovered the fumble at the 50-yard line.
The second-team defensive line did well inside the two-minute warning. Rookie Sam Hubbard knocked the ball out of quarterback Cooper Rush’s hands while Carl Lawson sacked him two plays later.
Great strip sack by Sam Hubbard -- recovered by Dallas. pic.twitter.com/eswAgdG5mR— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 19, 2018
Driskel would go into the locker room at halftime two for four with 12 yards and an interception on a deep ball to John Ross. The interception was so crazy you could hardly fault him though.
Driskel to Ross just isn’t working right now pic.twitter.com/WczN75mKqo— Dadio McDuck (@dadiodefacto) August 19, 2018
On the first play of the second half, Driskel finally connected with Ross for a 29 yard gain. Shortly after, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty helped the Bengals cross into plus territory for the second time in the game. The drive ended in a booming 55-yard kick from Jonathan Brown with 11:55 left in the third quarter. The Bengals were finally on the scoreboard, but still trailed 10-3. Suddenly, the kicker competition looks a lot more interesting.
The Bengals’ defense forced another three-and-out, so Cincinnati quickly got the ball back, but thanks to a false start by Alex Redmond, they had to start on their own four-yard line. Tra Carson pounded the rock for 16 yards on three attempts to help dig the Bengals out of their own territory. Driskel spread the ball around to Alex Erickson, Cethan Carter, and Mason Schreck for 16 yards before unloading a 28-yard pass to Erickson to convert a third-and-11 to extend the drive. A 16-yard pass to Carter (which came on a play after which Carter had a false start) helped set up a two-yard touchdown from Carson. Driskel hit Ross in the back of the end zone for the two point conversion, and the Bengals took their first lead of the game with 1:10 left in the third quarter. This was also a savvy move by Marvin Lewis to go for two and not tie up a preseason game.
The Bengals gained 92 yards on that drive, 83 of them coming from Driskel’s arm. He went six of eight, while Carson gained 24 yards on six carries and pushed himself further into roster consideration.
The Bengals defense forced another three-and-out, so the Cowboys punted again. Darius Phillips had a 24-yard punt return, and some penalties on the Cowboys helped the Bengals get to the red zone before the first play that counted. Matt Barkley, who came in relief of Driskel, couldn’t get a first down, so the Bengals had to settle for a 34-yard field goal off the leg of Brown. The Bengals extended their lead to 14-10 with 10:35 left in the game.
The Cowboys’ third team finally got a first down, but they weren’t satisfied with just one. Running back Darius Jackson converted two of them himself, running for 21 yards on his first two rushes. The defense bent but didn’t break as CFL veteran Brett Maher knocked through a 45-yard kick. The Cowboys were within one point of the Bengals, at 14-13, with 9:22 left in the game.
Philips got the next drive started with a 44-yard kick return. On the first snap from scrimmage, Barkley hit Brian Hill with a screen that gained another 44 yards. The next play was a pitch to Hill for nine yards. Hill took another carry for three yards before scoring on a three yard pass from Barkley. Brown converted the extra point and the Bengals were up 21-13 with 7:46 to go after Hill gained all 59 yards and touched the ball on all four plays.
Barkley left the game on a high note after that drive and Logan Woodside took over under center, making his NFL debut. Barkley left the game a solid four for five with 54 yards and a touchdown and a rating of 156.1, just about two points shy of a perfect rating.
Woodside went only one for three with four yards gained.
The Bengals’ lead would hold as the team improved to 2-0 in the 2018 preseason with a final score of 21-13.
The Bengals will get ready for their game against Buffalo next Sunday as they look to keep their winning streak alive, but more importantly build upon what they’ve shown so far this preseason.