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Bengals and Falcons battle to 13-13 tie

Well, they didn’t lose.

The Cincinnati Bengals took the field on Friday night in Atlanta to face the Falcons in their second preseason game of the 2023 season.

Quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t make the trip, but we did get to see the defensive starters for a drive, and we got our first look at Jonah Williams at right tackle. Neither offense was able to move the ball very much during the first half as the two teams went to their respective locker rooms at halftime with the score knotted up at 3-3, thanks to a last-second field goal from Evan McPherson.

High-power offense fans left the game disappointed, especially if they tuned out after the first half. It wasn’t until the second half that either offense wiped the sleep out of their eyes and got to work, and even then, neither of the two teams put on a show.

Here’s how things went down.

The defense took to the field first against Desmond Ridder and the starting Falcons offense. Ridder was able to drive the ball down the field with short and intermediate passes, but the Bengals didn’t allow any deep passes or breakaway runs. The Falcons got down to the six-yard-line, and it was third down. Ridder’s pass was tipped into the air by Mike Hilton and then intercepted by Joseph Ossai.

Outside of a field goal, the defense, both the starters, and backups, didn’t allow the Falcons offense to get rolling for the rest of the first half.

Unfortunately, the Bengals offense, led by quarterback Trevor Siemian, didn’t fare any better. They were outgained in the first half by 127 yards, and the time of possession was staggeringly lopsided. The Falcons had the ball for just over 21 minutes, while the Bengals had it for only 8:44. The fact the two teams were tied at halftime was a testament to the Bengals defense.

With less than a minute left in the first half, the Bengals defense forced a turnover on downs. Siemian was able to connect with rookie receivers Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas on back-to-back plays, which set up kicker Evan McPherson for a chance for a 50-yard field goal. McPherson’s kick was right down the middle, and it would have been good from 60 yards.

Jake Browning led the Bengals offense in the second half, and the team immediately looked better. The offense drove down the field, thanks to a nice connection between Browning and wide receiver Shedrick Jackson, as the two connected multiple times.

Unfortunately, the offense sputtered after they were set up in the red zone after a defensive penalty, and they settled for another McPherson field goal, taking a 6-3 lead.

It was as if the offenses needed a half to warm up because the Falcons responded with a touchdown drive led by backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke. The former Commanders quarterback connected with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on a 27-yard pass to set the Falcons up on the one-yard line. They scored on the very next play on a rush up the middle by Carlos Washington Jr. The Falcons took the lead back with a score of 10-6.

Browning and the Bengals responded on their next drive, thanks to passes to rookie wide receivers Charlie Jones and more for Jackson. The Bengals finished the third quarter trailing 10-6, but were driving down the field when they allowed time to run out, opting to start the fourth quarter with a first-and-10 in the Falcons territory.

However, after a sack, the Bengals failed to pick up another first down on a third-and-long opportunity. Zac Taylor decided to go for it on fourth down with a quick pass to tight end Devin Asiasi, but he was pushed out of bounds before he could reach the marker, giving the Falcons the ball back.

Heinicke took over and drove the Falcons down into Bengals territory, but the defense, thanks to solid coverage from linebacker Joe Bachie and rookie corner D.J. Ivey on a fourth down pass, forced a turnover on downs, giving the Bengals offense the ball back on their own 39-yard line.

Browning and the offense came back on the field, but after two incomplete passes and a one-yard run by Chris Evans, the offense went three-and-out. We did get to see rookie punter Brad Robbins kick the ball away to the Falcons, pinning them inside their own 20-yard line. Again, at this point, both offenses were sputtering.

The Falcons turned to third-year quarterback Logan Woodside with a little over eight minutes left in the game, but the Bengals defense again showed up, forcing a three-and-out. It very much seemed, with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, that the next team to score a touchdown would win the game.

Browning and the Bengals took over at their own 29-yard line. After two passes left them in a third-and-nine situation, Browning got out of trouble in a collapsed pocket and rolled to his left. Instead of trying to run for the first down, he threw a pass into traffic intended for Chase Brown. It was intercepted by defensive back DeMarcco Hellams, setting the Falcons up with a first down deep in Bengals territory.

The Bengals defense stepped up again, though, as defensive end Owen Carney sacked Woodside on third-and-four, pushing them out of field goal range and giving the Bengals offense the ball back with just over three minutes left in the game, only down by four.

Browning remained in the game, and all of a sudden, the offense woke up. Browning spread the ball to a few different receivers, moving the ball down the field before he took off, scrambling for 20 yards into Falcons territory as the two-minute warning whistles blew. Browning then scrambled again for a nice gain and threw a nice pass to Iosivas to set the team up with a first-and-goal play from the three-yard line.

Rookie running back Brown was given the ball and scored the go-ahead touchdown, and after McPherson’s extra point attempt was good, the Bengals took a 13-10 lead with less than a minute left in the game.

It was as if the Bengals defense and offense couldn’t be good at the same time. As soon as the Bengals took the lead, the defense allowed Woodside to throw two deep passes, one to Xavier Malone for 19 yards and one to John FitzPatrick for 25 yards. Another completion set them up on the Bengals 28-yard line.

With one final attempt at the win, Woodside threw a deep pass intended for Malone into the end zone, but rookie corner Ivey was able to break the pass up. The Falcons had to settle for a 45-yard field goal, tying the game 13-13 with only two seconds left.

Since there is no overtime in the preseason, the Bengals and Falcons tied. There was a lot to like in the team’s second preseason game, especially from the defense. However, the offense still struggled throughout the game, except for their last drive of the game. They’ll look to improve on that side of the ball next week when they take on the Washington Commanders on the road next Saturday.