Yes, its only preseason, but football is back in Cincinnati!
The Bengals hosted the Bears, who were playing their second preseason game. Even though the game didn’t count, it was still fun to see live action in Paul Brown Stadium for the first time in seven months.
Not only was football back, but it was fun again. The Bengals came out swinging, scoring two touchdowns in their first three drives. This team is already leaps and bounds ahead of where last year’s 7-9 squad was at any point during the preseason.
The defense also started off strong, and with a Geno Atkins sack in the first drive, they forced the Bears to punt the ball early. Andy Dalton was a perfect two-for-two, hitting A.J. Green for 22 yards on the second play.
While Joe Mixon had a pedestrian nine yards on three carries, he had one stand-out play catching a short throw from Dalton, breaking two tackles and taking the ball 24 yards for a touchdown. Jonathan Brown converted the extra point, and the Bengals quickly had a 7-0 lead with 8:36 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bengals defense forced a three and out on the next drive with Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson wreaking havoc in the Bears’ backfield. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Dalton threw an interception to Kendall Fuller (intended for a falling John Ross), who returned it for a 47-yard touchdown.
Now tied 7-7 with 6:44 left in the quarter, the Bengals offense went back to work. Green helped convert a crucial 3rd down attempt, and Ross contributed a 20-yard reception. The drive ended on a 3-yard slant from Dalton to Tyler Boyd, and following the extra point from Randy Bullock, the Bengals were now up 14-7 with 2:16 to go in the opening quarter.
Dalton would exit the game after this drive, going 6-for-8 with 103 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 116.5. Green left with two catches for 48 yards.
Chase Daniel and the Bear’s second-string offense took the field for the Bears and finally made some headway. After a pass to Adam Shaheen for 29 yards, the Bears had the ball in the red zone at the start of the second quarter. They converted a fourth-down opportunity inside the five-yard line, paving the way for a one-yard Taquan Mizzell touchdown. With Cody Parkey’s extra point, the Bears had tied the game with 10:58 left in the first half.
Former Bear Matt Barkley took the field for the Bengals’ fourth offensive drive. After going three-and-out, the Bengals pulled a trick play out of the bag and faked a punt on fourth and four. Clark Harris snapped directly to Clayton Fejedelem who lined up as an up-back and he took the ball 49 yards.
Barkley and the offense struggled to find yards on their second attempt but were able to get three points out of the drive. Bullock knocked the 28-yard kick through, and the Bengals regained the lead 17-14 with 8:09 left in the half.
The Bears punted, and Barkley looked better his second time out there. He connected with C.J. Uzomah twice for 29 yards, while Tra Carson carried the rock four times for 21 yards. But the drive stalled on the seven-yard line, so Brown kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend the Bengals lead to 20-14 with 1:44 left in the second quarter.
The Bears tried to make something happen before halftime, but a tipped pass to Mizzell fell into the hands of linebacker Brandon Bell, ending the drive and giving the Bengals a chance to add to the lead.
With two timeouts in their pocket, Barkley hit Josh Malone for a 23-yard pass to set up the 29-yard field goal from Bullock as time expired. The Bengals went into the locker room with a 23-14 lead over the Bears.
At halftime, Barkley was 5-for-13 for 64 yards with a rating of 54.6. Jeff Driskel entered the game at quarterback when the Bengals received the second half kickoff. The Bengals punted the ball away on their first drive, but they got the ball back after KeiVarae Russell picked off Tyler Bray attempt of 34 yards. Even though the defense kept the Bears from scoring, the offense had the tough task of taking over on their own one-yard line.
The Bears forced a quick punt and moved down to the red zone in three plays. The Bengals defense stopped the Bears there but gave up three points on a 39-yard field goal. The score was 23-17 with 6:16 left in the third quarter.
The Bears offense got sparked when Ryan Nall broke out a 69-yard run, but they were unable to score a touchdown thanks to an offensive pass interference and a couple incompletions in the end zone. Parkey kicked a 35-yard three-pointer with 1:11 left in the third quarter to bring the Bears within three points.
The Bears dipped into the well again and found another big play, this time a 56-yard pass to Daniel Brown. Two plays later, Bray handed the ball off to Demarcus Ayers in motion and Ayers ran around the outside for a three-yard touchdown. The Bears took their first lead of the game now leading 27-23 after the extra point with 9:26 left in the game.
The Bengals ended up with the ball in their own territory with 2:55 left in the game. Driksel, who at this point was 6-for-10 with 39 yards and a 68.3 passer rating, turned up the heat. He completed six impressive throws, even though two of them were called back due to penalties, and ended up going four-for-four with 91 yards and a touchdown.
Two former Florida State Seminoles helped on this drive, with a 24-yard pass to Kermit Whitfield and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Auden Tate.
Four seconds before the two-minute warning, the Bengals were now up 30-27 following Bullock’s extra point.
The Bears had one more opportunity to tie the game after Bray and the Bears dinked and dunked to the Bengals’ 34-yard line. But Parkey missed the attempt to the left, so the Bengals held onto the lead with 50 seconds left in the game and eventually pulled out the victory.
Driskel ended with 10 completions out of 15 attempts, with 140 yards, one touchdown, and a passer rating of 118.8. Tra Carson was the leading rusher among running backs with 24 yards on six carries. Brian Hill had a solid game as well, with 13 yards on only three carries. Fejedelem’s 49 yards on the fake punt would give him the lead in rushing yards and in yards from scrimmage.
In general, the offense looked far and away better in this game than they did last year.