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Bengals starters meaninglessly falter while backups pick up the slack vs. Cowboys

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It was a struggle early, but the Bengals showed their depth as the backups and third-stringers helped stabilize a poor performance by the starters.

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Well, that wasn’t good.

Nah, more like “ew.” Gross. Find an outhouse (or a porta potty, as the millennials call it), one that’s especially ripe. Remove your hat with the perfectly bent brim, and then dunk your head in the hole. Yes, that hole. It would still be less disgusting than what we witnessed on Saturday.

For all the credit Cincinnati earned last week against the Bears, the team lost it Saturday against the Cowboys.

There’s one caveat from this mudpie showcase from Saturday: preseason games shouldn’t hammer any specific predictors for the regular season; you just hope for healthy players and some progression. The Bengals didn’t lose any of their projected starters, but the first-team crews regressed compared to last week.

For example, Cincinnati generated 283 yards and 17 first downs in the first half against Chicago; they posted 67 yards and only two first downs in the first half against Dallas.

By the 10:54 mark in the second quarter, Dallas had already scored 10 points while the Bengals offense had only secured 10 yards. A few seconds later, Cincinnati picked up their first first down of the game; a 23-yard pass to C.J. Uzomah, who settled three yards off the line of scrimmage waiting on Andy Dalton.

Saturday wasn’t a good showing for the Bengals’ starters, but the emotions from this performance should be discarded.

Right now.

Here. Let’s conduct an exercise. Write down your feelings on a piece of paper. Now crinkle it up, soak it in lighter fluid, and burn it. Take a shovel, and bury the ashes. Then bury the shovel.

As we’ve pointed out several times this month, preseason games shouldn’t be used for predicting the regular season. For example, in Cincinnati’s second preseason game in 2015, the offense was just as dreadful.

Bengals first half possessions in 2015 preseason game No. 2

Recall that the Bengals sported the seventh-best scoring offense that year and won 12 games, led by a tremendous defensive effort.

Oh, so did the Bengals’ first-team defense show up at least?

Well, not quite.

During Dallas’ second possession, the Cowboys drove to Cincinnati’s 18-yard line. A pair of Dak Prescott overthrows flanked Preston Brown’s singlehanded effort to hold Rod Smith to a one-yard gain.

Several possessions later, Cincinnati’s young pass rushers made an appearance. Sam Hubbard and Carl “The Human Muscle” Lawson recorded a pair of quarterback sacks late in the first half, forcing the Cowboys to punt with 54 seconds remaining.

Momentum mounting? Are things finally turning around? Nope. Jeff Driskel chucked the ball downfield where Cowboys defensive back Chidobe Awuzie came away with an impressive pick. Mercifully, the first half ended a few plays later.

Dallas’ starting offensive line was arguably the player of the game against Cincinnati’s unprepared front seven, applying power, misdirection, and schemes not unlike draws (where offensive linemen shove the opposing player in the direction they’re already going).

There were some positives, namely Andrew Billings, an unblockable behemoth with three first half tackles, one for loss. The pair of quarterback sacks by Hubbard and Lawson respectively, and later, Jordan Willis were all nice, too.

Eventually the Bengals placed points on the board during Jonathan Brown’s mega-sized 55-yard field goal with around 12 minutes remaining in the third. This broke a string of horrific offensive possessions that ended in punt, punt, punt, fumble (by Tyler Boyd), punt, and interception.

Once the starters exited, the game took a neutral tone initially with Cincinnati progressively stabilizing. Eventually, when Cedric Ogbuehi wasn’t giving up quarterback sacks and being called for offensive holds, Cincinnati took an 11-10 after running back Tra Carson’s outstretched touchdown capped a 14-play, 92-yard drive late in the third. John Ross secured the two-point conversion on the next play.

Oh, by the way, Cincinnati beat Dallas 21-13.

Don’t take these results seriously. Yes, progress is nice but this performance isn’t going to highlight any predictive analysis on the regular season. The starters didn’t play well, but the backups and third-stringers did, giving prominence to more interesting roster battles in the days to come.

Cincinnati heads to Buffalo next Sunday for the “dress rehearsal.”