ATLANTA — It didn't matter which defensive unit or special teams group was in there as the Bengals flexed their top-ranked muscles in Thursday night's preseason opener here at the Georgia Dome in a 34-10 win. The 24-point margin of victory was the largest in a preseason opener in Bengals history and began the buzz about just how deep they think this roster is.
"We were talking about that on the sideline," said backup quarterback
With backup linebackers like rookie free-agent
After Sanzenbacher sailed up the sideline untouched, the third-year pro out of Ohio State via the Bears was just beginning.
"I think the thing I feel best about is that we took care of the ball. First preseason game of the year and you don't get careless with the football," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said after his team had no turnovers. "Overall I was pleased. On defense we (played well) on the line and that's a good thing. Being in the right coverage position. We just have to play the ball in the air better. I thought special teams did a nice job throughout the night."
But the Bengals couldn't escape the injury bug that has saddled the NFL early this preseason when rookie offensive lineman
Yet Lewis, calling it a sprain, said he'll miss time but that it's not serious.That would be a tough loss because Hawkinson was projected to be a backup at both guard and tackle. And on Thursday night he played left guard before he got hurt at left tackle.
With the unknowns leading the offense behind Johnson's 21-yard touchdown pass to
But the Bengals first offense struggled in quarterback
While the defense stuffed the Falcons on their first four third-down chances, Dalton couldn't convert third-and-12 and third-and-20 plays after penalties.
Then on the second drive, Eifert made his first catch as a pro running in the flat for a two-yard gain that would have made it third-and-six. But center
Dalton wasn't down, but upbeat about the flashes he saw from Bernard and Eifert.
"If Ryan doesn't slip, we get that first down and if Gio doesn't slip on his cut we pick up that first down," Dalton said. "It's good to what he can do after he catches it. We had two series. We got a couple of first downs. Obviously you'd like to drive down and score, but we can't have the penalties."
Tight end Jermaine Gresham looked sharp in the double-tight sets, catching two balls for first downs and was wide open on each. On the first one Dalton (3-for-7, 37 yards) rolled toward him in the flat for a 10-yard gain. On the second one Gresham, lined up next to Eifert, released quickly and Dalton hit Gresham right away for 11 yards.
Johnson was terrific. His 43-yard scramble set up
“I was impressed overall with what (Johnson) did out there," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "We know he can make plays with his legs, but throwing the ball is how a quarterback has to make a living in this league, and it was a real nice play to Brandon Tate.”
Johnson worked into the second half and when Skelton came on in the last minute of the third quarter Johnson was finished with 9-of-16 passing for 100 yards.
Johnson performed in front of the head coach that drafted him in the fifth round in Tampa Bay five years ago, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Jon's brother, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was on that staff and is the reason Johnson is here. Johnson and Jon Gruden visited Wednesday at the Bengals hotel and Johnson clearly got a kick playing well in front of him. Not to mention the nation.
"It was good to see his face. I really appreciate him. He taught me a lot of football," Johnson said. "Unfortunately he's not coaching. We'd like to see him coaching. But Jay's doing a great job."Ghee's interception with Hunt and Evans in hot pursuit came at the Bengals 49 with 2:24 left in the half and set up what amounted to a successful two-minute drill.
"The quarterback just rolled out and gave me a gift. I give a lot of credit to coach (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) for the call," said Ghee, savoring a sweet moment after missing all last season with a broken wrist. "But for me, it has been a year and some change off. So it feels great to get out there and make a play.”
But Ghee couldn't savor it for long. He left late in the third quarter with a head injury after making a tackle.
Johnson, who hit six of 11 passes for 71 yards in the first half, threw a great ball to Whalen on the sideline on third-and-14 for a 24-yard gain that gave the Bengals a first down at the 9 with 38 seconds left.
The Bengals were content to give it to Bernard on the last two plays for six yards as the clock ticked. He almost punched in a draw on third down, but on fourth down followed the power play on blocks by fullback
"Got to be a football player," he said. "They want to go for it so you've got to be the man to step up."
The Bengals put Bernard on display with 14 first-half touches. He had 28 yards on 10 carries, 16 yards on three catches and a 10-yard punt return.
When he came out of the game, the Bengals proceeded to pound out the clock with their last two sixth-rounders and they delivered. Rookie
The Bengals first defense picked up where it left off in last season and lowered its head on third-and-two in the red zone when left end
The Falcons got down there when Ryan made the Bengals pay for cornerback
The defense gave Ryan nothing on the next series. Still came off the bench to stop Jackson for a three-yard pickup and when the Falcons finally tried the outside, safety
The Bengals struggled up front with the flags. Five of the eight flags thrown were on the offensive line.