It didn't take long for A.J. Green to go long.
KANSAS CITY - If you were looking for something to rip or praise, you had a delightful time watching Thursday night’s preseason opener in which the Bengals and Chiefs put on a scorefest in Kansas City's 41-39 victory for the most points ever in a Bengals preseason game.
The Chiefs victimized Bengals backup quarterback Jason Campbell on a pair of pick sixes and De’Anthony Thomas added an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Bengals countered with cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick’s 40-yard pick six of Chiefs backup quarterback Chase Daniel and right end Robert Geathers had one of four Bengals sacks in the first half and that led to left end Carlos Dunlap’s red-zone recovery that set up a touchdown.
“I liked the crispness of the first units, but obviously we’re getting a lot snaps for the young guys,” said head coach Marvin Lewis at halftime. “And you can’t have the sort of explosive plays we gave up on defense and special teams.”
But the important stuff is first things first.
The Bengals’ first unit overcame a re-tooled offensive line and opened the preseason in crisp fashion with a nine-play, 81-yard drive that resulted in Mike Nugent
’s 30-yard field goal that helped the Bengals get off to a 10-0 start in the season’s first 9:24. The field goal would be shorter than the 33-yard extra point he would hit a few minutes later.
Quarterback Andy Dalton and the Ones worked only in that drive and he hit three brisk completions on five chances three days after signing his big six-year extension and that included a long bomb to wide receiver A.J. Green.
“I knew a lot of eyes would be on me after all the news this week, so it felt good to get out there and have things go pretty well, even though it was brief,” Dalton said. “We hit a couple of passes to A.J., but of course we would have liked to have finished it off with a touchdown instead of a field goal.”
Dalton stood up in the face of a rush from his blind side and unleashed a 53-yarder to Green running past cornerback Ron Parker down the middle of the field at the Chiefs 13.
On second-and-nine, tight end Tyler Eifert was well covered running to the back line of the end zone by linebacker Derrick Johnson and Dalton threw it only where Eifert could get it but it was just overthrown. Then on third-and-nine, Dalton got pressure again, but this time he threw it behind wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to bring on Nugent.
Yet the first unit looked sharp for the most part, although the Chiefs’ elite pass rush would prove to be a problem during the first quarter. Using a quick huddle, a bunch of guys got their hands on the ball. Running back Giovani had a nice inside five-yard run as well a nine-yard scoot off a screen. Dalton and Green started it all off on the first play when Dalton rifled a play-action to Green on the right sideline for nine yards.
Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict picked up right where he left off last season on the second and third plays of the season. On second-and-three, he blanketed running back Jamaal Charles on a pass out of the backfield for a yard and on third-and-two he came flying across from right to left to help tackle Domata Peko trip up Charles to force punt.
Then on the next series, with Geathers subbing for Wallace Gilberry at right end, Geathers forced a fumble after his sack that was recovered by Dunlap at the Chiefs 16. Two plays later Campbell hit wide receiver Brandon Tate on a slant for a nine-yard touchdown pass that made it 10-0.
But special teams gave it away.
Wide receiver Albert Wilson went 65 yards with the ensuing kickoff and the Chiefs got 15 more yards when cornerback Adam Jones was called for unnecessary roughness flinging Wilson out of bounds and that set up Ryan Succop’s 27-yard field goal.
Then, Kevin Huber’s 43-yard punt got returned by Thomas even though the Bengals seemed to have him hemmed in on the right sideline. But Kirkpatrick, playing gunner, bounced off Thomas, didn‘t get him down, and when Thomas cut it back left, he was gone.
Then on the very next play with 22 seconds left in the first quarter, Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith outfought wide receiver Cobi Hamilton for a Campbell pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown that gave Kansas City a 17-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
But Kirkpatrick atoned with a pick six of his own that tied the game at 17 midway through the second quarter in a great sequence for the Bengals cornerbacks. On his fourth play as a Bengal, first-round pick Darqueze Dennard blitzed from the slot and sacked backup quarterback Chase Daniel. Then with more pressure coming, Daniel threw a ball to Kirkpatrick on the sideline, where he made a leaping catch over tight end Travis Kelce and took it 40 yards for a touchdown.
The beat went on. Tate, veteran Dane Sanzenbacher, and rookie James Wright, involved in scrum at wide receiver all scored touchdowns. Sanzenbacher got his when he cleanly released off the line against cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and beat the coverage for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 1:51 left in the half.
But the Chiefs had an answer to take a 27-24 half-time lead and it came the play after Dennard and safety Shaun Williams ran into each other. Both were OK, but they had to leave the game and Daniel went after his replacements. Kelce got behind rookie DBs Lavelle Westbrooks and Isaiah Lewis for a 69-yard touchdown catch with 21 seconds left in the half.
Campbell, who completed six of 15 passes for 72 yards, got picked sixed again early in the second half when he was late throwing to Tate in the flat and cornerback Malcolm Bronson ran it in from 51 yards.
Wright got his touchdown catch, a nine-yarder from Matt Scott and it only came after Lewis challenged an incomplete pass.
The Bengals defense added two more sacks in the second half to finish with six. One came when left end Margus Hunt abused veteran right tackle Jeff Linkenbach.
PREGAME NOTES: As expected, a big portion of the Bengals starting offense didn’t get the call for Thursday night’s preseason opener at Arrowhead Stadium, beginning with tackles Andrew Whitworth (calf) and Andre Smith (concussion).
Starting left guard Clint Boling and backup Mike Pollak also didn’t go as they continue to rehab their knees. Rookie free agent Trey Hopkins of Texas got the start at left guard, lining up next to another rookie, first-team center Russell Bodine.
Even though he’s got one experienced starter on his offensive line in right guard Kevin Zeitler, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has indicated he'll start quarterack Andy Dalton despite the presence of two fierce outside pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Not to mention 350-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe.
Also out were two starters that came off the physically unable to perform list this week but didn’t get enough work in to play, wide receiver Marvin Jones (ankle) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (back).
They’ve also taken a hit at linebacker, where JK Schaffer (concussion) and Sean Porter (knee) are out. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins has been cleared but has yet to practice in team drills during his ACL rehab.
Also out were backup wide receiver Ryan Whalen (hamstring) and rookie quarterback AJ McCarron (shoulder).
Marshall Newhouse made his Bengals debut starting at left tackle, as did Will Svitek at right tackle. But they’re not neophytes. Newhouse has 31 NFL starts as he heads into his fifth season and Svitek, a nine-year vet, has 18 starts.
It may have been the most even preseason opener in pro sports history. Both the Bengals and Chiefs finished 11-5 scoring 430 points and giving up 305. Elias Sports Bureau says it’s the only time two NFL teams have finished with the same record and the same points scored and allowed.