Week 1 for the Cincinnati Bengals got off to an interesting start to say the least. In the first two minutes of the game, the first pass attempts from quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Andrew Luck were intercepted. But the wild ride was just beginning.
The Bengals won the game 34-23, thanks to Clayton Fejedelem who became a key component in the win due to starting safety Shawn Williams’ ejection.
But let’s back up because so much happened to get the Bengals to 1-0 to start the year.
Following a 10-play drive from the Bengals offense that ended with a 42-yard field goal from kicker Randy Bullock, the Colts offense also calmed down and began a long drive of their own. Five plays into the series, Luck scrambled out of a broken pocket on a third-and-seven and was wrapped up by defensive end Michael Johnson.
As Luck was coming to the ground, strong safety Shawn Williams came flying into the play with his helmet striking Luck to the ground.
Bengals Shawn Williams ejected on a clear helmet violation pic.twitter.com/dJ8TZdKW1i— Melissa Jacobs (@thefootballgirl) September 9, 2018
Williams was flagged for his hit, and after further review, the Bengals’ starting safety was ejected from the game. The disqualification was more for being a late hit on the quarterback rather than an implementation of the new helmet rules. Regardless, it wasn’t a wise decision from Williams to go through with the hit with Luck basically down when he arrived. The Colts finished the drive with a field goal, and Clayton Fejedelem came in for Williams.
But disaster wasn’t quite over for the Bengals in the first period. On their next drive, A.J. Green caught his second reception of the game and safety Matthias Farley forced Green to fumble just before the quarter ended.
The Colts took advantage on the ensuing possession and capped off a seven-play 58-yard drive that ended with the first touchdown of the game, in the form of a 26-yard touchdown from Luck to his new tight end Eric Ebron.
Andrew Luck touchdown pass to Eric Ebron. Good job isolating Ebron to get him upfield pic.twitter.com/DgUlx3szeQ— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 9, 2018
Now down 10-3, the Bengals responded by getting just one first-down on the next drive, and the defense was forced out onto the field very quickly. The Colts took their time and drove down the field for their second drive lasting more than six minutes in the half. In typical Bengals fashion, the defense bent but didn’t break and forced a field goal, as the Colts extended their lead to 13-3.
With less than three minutes remaining in the half, the Bengals offense finally got some movement, starting with a 27-yard third-down run by running back Joe Mixon. Mixon had the best yardage of any Bengals skill player in the first half, with six runs for 55 yards. With some form of momentum now on their side, Dalton tried to launch a deep ball to wide receiver A.J. Green but just overthrew him, short of the goal-line. Luckily, cornerback Quincy Wilson was called for defensive pass interference and the Bengals were in prime scoring position.
Two plays later, Dalton connected with wide receiver John Ross on a three-yard fade route, and just like that, Ross caught his first career pass and touchdown in one play.
John Ross’ first NFL TD was a beauty! pic.twitter.com/fRhDN4daGI— Cincy Jungle (@CincyJungle) September 9, 2018
The Colts received the ball back with under two minutes remaining in the half and all of their timeouts left. Following a couple first downs that moved the ball to midfield, Luck tried to connect with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton down the field and was nearly intercepted by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. But a roughing the passer penalty called against defensive end Carlos Dunlap moved the Colts offense to the 36-yard-line and in field goal range. Linebacker Preston Brown also left the game with an ankle injury on the drive. He returned soon after.
The Colts only gained three more yards, and ageless kicker Adam Vinatieri knocked in a 51-yard field goal with just two seconds remaining to extend the Colts lead to 16-10.
Coming back onto the field following much needed rest after halftime, the Bengals defense came out firing and defensive tackle/demigod Geno Atkins ended up being the first to sack Luck. Unfortunately, the Bengals offense matched the Colts and went three-and-out with the help of an old friend in Margus Hunt, who beat right tackle Bobby Hart inside and sacked Dalton on a second-and-16.
Turns out Margus Hunt can play. Throwing salt on the wound. pic.twitter.com/XhQImgjMVQ— Dadio McDuck (@dadiodefacto) September 9, 2018
Relentlessly, the Colts carved up the Bengals defense on the ensuing drive, taking only just over three minutes to go 60-yards on nine plays that ended with a Hilton five-yard touchdown catch, bringing the lead to 23-10. Luck operated strictly out of the no huddle after every completion, and they continued to gash the middle of the Bengals defense.
But...the Bengals offense responded.
In their best drive of the game, Dalton and Mixon worked up the field against the Colts defense for 75 yards on eight plays. 20 yards came from Mixon, and 43 came from Green, who hauled in a 38-yard touchdown from Dalton on a deep post route.
The offense would’ve gotten the ball back with incredible field position after defensive end Carlos Dunlap sacked Luck and forced a fumble that Fejedelem returned to the Colts five-yard line. But the new rules prohibiting a defender landing with his full body weight called the fumble back and the defense had to deal with Dunlap’s second roughing the passer penalty of the game.
This was called roughing the passer. Carlos Dunlap was just flagged for this play. Yes, the referee threw a flag. pic.twitter.com/SSNLi7guDZ— Brandon Saho (@BrandonSaho) September 9, 2018
Dunlap wouldn’t let the penalty define the drive however, and responded with a perfectly legal takedown of Luck two plays later.
The sack would force the Colts to bring out Vinatieri for a 55-yard field goal, which he missed by mere inches. In the end, the ball got back to the Bengals, and it went right into the hands of Mixon.
After another Hunt sack against Hart, and defensive pass interference was called on Clayton Geathers defending tight end Tyler Eifert, Mixon finished the drive with 26 yards on three touches, including a 1-yard rushing touchdown to finish the drive. None other than defensive end Sam Hubbard lined up at fullback as the lead blocker. The Bengals took back the lead 24-23.
Sam Hubbard leads the way and Joe Mixon ties the game. Randy Bullocks extra point makes it 24-23 Bengals pic.twitter.com/qXfh20lwaC— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) September 9, 2018
Following a three-and-out forced by the defense, Dalton connected with slot receiver Tyler Boyd for a crucial third-down conversion, moving the offense past midfield. Later in the drive, Dalton connected with Green for the sixth time of the game, and Green put the ball on the ground with his second fumble of the game. Luckily, Boyd came up clutch and recovered the fumble, keeping the drive alive.
The offense couldn’t end the drive in the end zone, but Bullock squeaked in his 39-yard field goal to make it 27-23.
With under four minutes left in the game, Luck attempted to drive the Colts for the touchdown they needed, and their hopes were crushed when Fejedelem made the play of his life. The backup safety and special teams captain forced a Jack Doyle fumble and returned it 83 yards for the game-winning score.
The Bengals are 1-0!