The first game of the preseason, that is. Forgive me if this grizzled bag-o-bones sounded a bit dire. Many of us “old timers” lived through an era where bad preseason moments translated into horrific regular season experiences. I need to get over that, I really do.
Bad things happened in the preseason, sure. It’s the preseason. Let’s call mistakes and SMH moments learning experiences. Yet, aside from John Ross falling down, allowing Kyle Fuller to snag an Andy Dalton pass and return it 47 yards for a touchdown, there really wasn’t a “bad moment” in the Bengals’ preseason opener. OK, there was also the Ryan Nall 69-yard run and the Daniel Brown 56-yard reception, or anything the Bengals offense attempted in the second half — except that amazing 33-yard touchdown from Jeff Driskel to Auden Tate. These are learning experiences.
In truth, the scales clearly favored the Bengals during the first half. Halftime didn’t indicate an overwhelming superiority, but preseason scores are meaningless. It’s the individual performances and battles that made Thursday night worth watching. Cincinnati’s starting quarterback looked fantastic, whereas the battle between backups should be answered now. Let’s just give it to Jeff Driskel. Please.
Regardless, the offense looked strong. Andy Dalton, in midseason form, smoked a pair of 20-plus yard passes to A.J. Green and Joe Mixon, the latter leading to a 24-yard touchdown.
Hold on. I’m not doing that justice.
Mixon with a 24-yard TD reception. pic.twitter.com/oUL4nfFL27— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 9, 2018
Mixon’s B-button move showed an impressive low center-of-gravity, shedding multiple tackler, and dropping multiple jaws. This touchdown supports a growing belief that his athleticism could define him as one of the league’s best running backs. Eat your heart out, Le’Veon.
The offensive line looked strong, despite early struggles on the right side. Center Billy Price didn’t fumble an exchange, and there was plenty of movement when they engaged against their opponents. Mixon, and Giovani Bernard (who might be the toughest skills position player on the team), had plenty of lanes, especially cutback avenues.
Ross didn’t do anything magical, but nearly scored an amazing second quarter touchdown. Quick timing routes to Josh Malone, who took a shot on a 23-yard pass and held onto the football, gives rise to Cincinnati’s dynamic abilities at receiver.
If the Bengals offense looked strong, the defense was downright terrifying.
In a good way.
During Chicago’s first possession, Geno Atkins threatened Mitchell Trubisky on multiple rushes, one resulting in a quarterback sack. Atkins’ ability to gain leverage over inferior linemen is something to behold. If Cincinnati fails to sign Atkins to a long-term extension prior to the regular season, it would be a colossal mistake. If you thought I was mean to the front office before…
The second-team defense bent a little, allowing Chicago to reach Cincinnati’s two-yard line. Second-string quarterback Chase Daniel snuck for a first down on fourth-and-one and Chicago penetrated the endzone on Taquan Mizzell’s ensuing touchdown. Cincinnati toughened up after that, holding Chicago to a three-and-out and an interception to close out the first half.
And how about that sneak special teams?
With 9:49 remaining in the second quarter, the Bengals were in punt formation. Clark Harris (with his gorgeous hair), directly snapped the football to Clayton Fejedelem, who cradled the football and ran around, wrapping toward to the left sideline with Brandon Bell and Ryan Hewitt securing the edge. Along with a “lowering head to initiate contact” penalty, the Bengals flipped the field from their own 25-yard line to Chicago’s 13. Three plays later, Cincinnati took a 17-14 lead.
It’s important not to get caught up with failure and success in the preseason. Cincinnati’s offense looked good, and their defense had a Mike Zimmer-era feel to it. However, the preseason is a horrible predictor for the regular season; these games are individual tests, and job interviews, not team-oriented assessments.
That being said, I’m smiling a little bit right now.