The Bengals had to wait until the late afternoon to kick the season off, but it was worth the wait to finally play football again.
As it turns out, getting Zac Taylor will do wonders for your offense.
Both Andy Dalton and John Ross had career games. Dalton slung the ball for the first 400 yard game of his career and set a new career high in completions. Ross had six catches on 11 targets for 150 yards and two touchdowns, destroying his previous career highs in the three former categories.
The Bengals started with the ball, so we got to see Zac Taylor’s revamped offense immediately following kickoff. Andy Dalton threw seven straight passes, completing three of them to Tyler Boyd for 27 yards. Unfortunately, the Bengals were forced to punt.
The defense forced a three-and-out, so the offense went back out and threw the ball some more. It looked like the Bengals would come up empty again, but Cody Barton clobbered Kevin Huber on the punt, giving the Bengals a new set of downs.
The Bengals got fresh life off the penalty.
The Bengals kept moving down the field, but a delay of game penalty slowed the momentum. They were eventually forced to settle for a field goal. Randy Bullock sent the 39-yard kick through with 2:48 left in the first quarter, and the Bengals took their first lead of 2019.
The Bengals’ defense then got another three-and-out, but Alex Erickson fumbled the punt return. The Seahawks got the ball on the Bengals’ 43-yard line.
The Bengals’ defense line kept the Seahawks from getting any more momentum on the drive, forcing another punt. The Bengals were led at that point by Sam Hubbard who had a sack and a pressure, Carlos Dunlap who had two pressures, and Andrew Billings who was in Wilson’s face on several of those plays.
The Seahawks got the ball back and decided to turn to their run game.
Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny combined for four carries on 20 yards including Carson’s one-yard touchdown run with 6:36 to go in the second quarter. The extra point was good, and suddenly, the Bengals were now trailing 7-3.
The Bengals needed to respond, and did so quickly and mercilessly.
The drive covered 75 yards, but only took three plays, 1:24. C.J. Uzomah led the team in receiving on that drive with a spectacular 36-yard grab. But the most impressive play was a flea flicker to John Ross for a 33-yard touchdown.
The Bengals weren’t behind for long, and with Bullock’s extra point, they led 10-7 with 5:12 remaining in the half.
Right before the half, the Seahawks made one last push. Following a personal foul from Dre Kirkpatrick, Russell Wilson hit D.K. Metcalf for 42 yards.
The Bengals had the Seahawks in a third and long in the red zone, but Carson wiggled out of several tackles to get to the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown reception. Jason Myers’ extra point was good, and the Seahawks took a 14-10 lead with 52 seconds left in the half.
The Bengals only had one timeout left, but the Bengals weren’t done scoring. Ross dropped a crucial ball that could have gone for a touchdown, but instead stopped the clock with 16 seconds left.
On the next play, Dalton uncorked a deep bomb to that was misplayed by the safety and high-pointed by Ross. He ran the ball into the end zone with only seven seconds left in the half. Bullock’s extra point would close out the half, with the Bengals leading 17-14 at the break.
Here's a look at the John Ross TD at the end of the first half. pic.twitter.com/ZnzKskMtXa— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) September 8, 2019
The new and improved Bengals’ offense looked like a Big 12 team at times, with only 5 running plays in the first half to 27 passing plays. Joe Mixon was held to nine yards in the half while Dalton compiled 245 passing yards.
Boyd and Ross were the biggest beneficiaries of the passing game, with Boyd hauling in seven passes for 53 yards. Despite having a couple drops, Ross had three catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, all of which were career highs.
The Bengals defense was the biggest surprise of the first half. They were giving Russell Wilson constant pressure and only scored thanks to goofs by Erickson and Kirkpatrick. On the whole, the unit looked completely different from 2018’s historically bad defense.
As the second half kicked off, the Bengals defense started with a bang, forcing Carson to fumble and recovering the ball in Seahawks territory. The advantage was short lived, however, as Dalton lost the ball on a fumble and the Seahawks got it right back.
Dunlap sacked Wilson on the next play and Nick Vigil tackled Carson behind the line for a loss, leading to a fourth and 15. The defensive front forced the Seahawks to punt again, continuing the trend they set in the first half.
Giovani Bernard finally got his hands on the ball and cranked out a 35-yard reception on a screen. The rain started coming down, so the offense slowed to a halt. Bullock attempted a 45-yard field goal, but the kick went wide left.
On the next drive, Tyler Eifert got involved for the first time in the game. Eifert had two catches for only 12 yards, but the second catch was a key third-down reception. The drive ended on a failed fourth down conversion attempt at the Seahawks’ 36-yard line.
The Seahawks only needed four plays on the following drive to get in the end zone.
After a few running plays, the Bengals’ pass coverage broke down and Wilson connected with Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Seahawks took a 21-17 lead with 14:53 left after Myers’ extra point.
The Bengals kept airing it out, and Dalton eclipsed his previous career-high of 383 passing yards on the drive. He notched 49 yards on the drive and was assisted by three penalties on the Seahawks. The Bengals couldn’t find the end zone, but they gave Bullock and easier field goal attempt. After the 27-yard attempt, the Bengals crawled back to within one point, trailing 21-20 with 7:00 to work with before the game ended.
The Bengals forced a three-and-out on the next series, but failed to capitalize when they had the ball. The Seahawks batted two passes at the line, one of which led to a Bengals punt.
Unfortunately, the Bengals couldn’t force the Seahawks into a three-and-out, so they got the ball back with only 21 seconds left in the game. But Dalton would be hit while in the throwing motion and fumbled the ball and the Seahawks recovered it, so the Bengals’ last chance at win disappeared.
The final score was 21-20, with the Bengals losing the first game of the Zac Taylor era, though it was a valiant effort in a very hostile environment and several key players out due to injury.
While it stings, there was a lot to feel good about from this game and moving forward under Taylor’s watch.