Preseason football is the time for rookies and long-shots to make their case for the NFL. The younger side of the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster got the memo Saturday night.
The Bengals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-14 thanks in large part to the play of their rookie class and a few unheralded reserve players. In classic preseason fashion, the contest featured several turnovers, a couple questionable penalties, and a handful of goofy plays.
Zac Taylor and his staff have plenty of positive film to overview in the coming days. Here’s how it went down in Tampa.
Much of the hype from Bengals training camp revolved around the defense, and the first-team unit looked ready to play. D.J. Reader, Trey Hendrickson, and Joseph Ossai all recorded pressures on the first drive, with Hendrickson and Ossai combining for sack on third down to take Tom Brady and the Bucs off of the field.
Reserves came in for defense’s second drive, and the Buccaneers took 15 plays to drive down the field for a Ke’Shawn Vaughn rushing touchdown at the goal line. The drive nearly ended when Brandon Wilson dropped an interception that bounced off the hands of Vaughn. Ossai, who simply had an electric debut, provided pressure on the play and rushed quarterback Blaine Gabbert on the throw.
Sandwiched in-between that drive was the offense’s first chance on the field. Tyler Boyd converted the team’s first third down and Ja’Marr Chase quickly followed that with a first down off a screen pass. Samaje Perine came in the game for Joe Mixon and fumbled on his second carry, ending what looked to be a promising drive.
The second-team offense started with great field position thanks to a 40-yard kickoff return from Darius Phillips. A Brandon Allen scramble and a creative Chris Evans run sparked life in the series, but another fumble ended it prematurely, this time from Mike Thomas.
Thomas and the second-team got another chance after Darius Hodge and Ossai met at backup quarterback Ryan Griffin for a sack fumble on fourth-and-two. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Allen was intercepted by Javon Hagan...for about three seconds. Hagan fumbled his interception return and the ball landed in Thomas’ hands.
Thomas then took a screen pass for 22 yards fierce yards, as if his previous fumble was fueling each of his strides.
The rest of the drive featured seven carries for 22 yards from the running back duo of Jacques Patrick and Evans, and the latter specifically looked mighty spry in his first-ever NFL game. His final carry on the drive was a one-yard touchdown with just 13 seconds remaining in the first half. The Bengals went back into the locker room with a 7-6 lead.
Kyle Shurmur got the call to start the second half at quarterback. The son of long-time NFL coach Pat Shurmur had a rough opening to his debut and threw a would-be interception on his fifth throw if not for a questionable holding penalty on the play. After the favor from the refs, Evan McPherson drilled his first-career field goal from 40 yards out to make it a 10-6 ball game.
The defense’s first drive of the half featured a Trayvon Henderson interception that bounced off the hands of Scotty Miller. Backup slot cornerback Jalen Davis provided solid coverage on the play.
i’d consider this play a cousin of the other pic.twitter.com/0UC8p4IL8j— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 15, 2021
Tipped passes and fumbles seemed to be a theme for the night. On the defense’s next drive, Kavon Frazier got in on the fun and corralled Griffin’s second interception of the game. Joe Bachie and Antonio Phillips collided in coverage and forced the ball to pop up in the air.
Austin Seibert’s first field goal try went through the uprights just moments later and the Bengals extended their lead to seven, making the score 13-6. McPherson took the next attempt as a part of the kicker rotation and made it a 16-6 ballgame after a 12-play drive closed out the quarter.
Bad news came on and off the field at the start of the final period. Joseph Ossai was declared out with a wrist injury right before Kyle Shurmur threw a pick-six near his own end zone. The offense nearly gave the ball away on the next drive thanks to a fumble from Jacques Patrick and a recovery from D’Ante Smith.
Right before the fourth punt of the quarter, Darius Hodge hustled his way for his second sack of the game, ending the Bucs’ final drive. This allowed Patrick to redeem himself on the ensuing drive and scamper for a 24-yard run on third down. Patrick would finish with 71 yards on 15 carries. Seibert proceeded to nail a 38-yard field goal, which were the final points of the game.
The Bengals get five days of rest before their second preseason game against the Washington Football Team.