CHICAGO — Despite heading into the fourth quarter with a 137-yard edge in offense and nearly seven minutes in time of possession, the Bengals let a should-have-could-have opener slip through their hands in a 24-21 defeat to the Bears at Soldier Field.
The game was summed up when middle linebacker
Earlier in the final period, with too many men on the field for their defense, the Bengals had to take their last timeout with 8:06 left. But that didn't prevent Cutler from scrambling for 18 yards on second-and-20, or from running back Matt Forte going wide to convert a fourth-and-one, or for Marshall beating safety
The Bengals couldn't overcome three turnovers and eight penalties and a bevvy of blown chances that handed the Bears a field goal at the end of the first half. The Bengals couldn't take advantage of linebacker
The Bengals overcame a brutal first six minutes of their 2013 season to stage an air show in the first half with quarterback
But the Bengals playcalling and an unsportsmanlike penalty on cornerback
Not only that, but Green left the game as the doctors looked at his left hand. He returned in the second half with the hand taped.
Wary of Bears punt returner Devin Hester,
Green had a field day before then capping touchdown drives of 97 and 91 yards. Before Dalton hit Green with a 45-yard touchdown where Green fried cornerback Tim Jennings down the right sideline with cornerback Charles Tillman getting a rest on the bench, Dalton kept the drive alive with a tremendous third-and-10 throw to Green on the Bears sideline on a 21-yard completion that he threaded between cornerback Zack Bowman and strong safety Major Wright.
Dalton finished the game 26-of-33 passing for 282 yards and a 97.2 passer rating despite two interceptions.
The Bengals reeled off a nine-play, 97-yard touchdown drive against the NFL's fifth-best defense that tied it at seven with 2:34 left in the first quarter when a wide-open Green ran a Pro Bowl pivot route in front of the Pro Bowl Tillman for a two-yard touchdown pass on third down.
The drive was highlighted by Green outfoxing Tillman for a 42-yard catch down the right sideline to put the ball on the Bears 4. Tillman was so concerned about Green beating him outside that he allowed Green to slide inside for a big play the Bengals didn't get much at the end of last season. Green went the last five games of last year without a catch longer than 21 yards.
The drive also featured the first big plays of Cincinnati's first two draft picks. Tight end
But Green had a bad drop on the next series that stopped Dalton's streak of five straight completions and turned into his second interception when Green got his hands on a ball over the middle that would have been a 15-yard gain but the ball ticked up in the air and Tillman grabbed it and went 37 yards the other way to the Bengals 42.
The defense then finished off a nice three-and-out stand when on third down linebackers Vontaze Burfict and
The shaky start began when Adam Jones's punt return to the Bears 28 was nullified by an illegal block on running back
Tillman, who anchored the Bears 44-turnover machine of a year ago, appeared to fool Dalton when he broke inside on Green's slant to set up Chicago at the Bengals 35.
The Bengals woes continued when Cutler converted a third-and-17 on a dart over Burfict to Marshall for an 18-yard gain.
Then on second down, Cutler found Bennett on the back line of the end zone and Bennett outfought safety
PREGAME HITS: In a nod to what is expected to be their extensive use of double tight-end sets, the Bengals opted to go with four wide receivers in Sunday's opener against the Bears at Soldier Field.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis sat
But that was before last year's draft and the selections of tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard, players than can also be used as receivers.
The three injured players were also inactive, left tackle
Lewis is going with the idea of game captains instead of permanent captains. Last year in midseason he put the Cs on quarterback Andy Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, but on Sunday he seemed to opt for the seniority route.
He kept Dalton for the offense and went with center