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Another Strong Defensive Effort Carries Bengals In First Half

Washington Football Team wide receiver Cam Sims (89) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Jordan Evans during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington Football Team wide receiver Cam Sims (89) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Jordan Evans during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Another big defensive effort for the Bengals kept them in Saturday night's preseason game at FedExField and allowed just two field goals as Washington took a 6-3 lead halftime in the last minute of the half.

The first quarter was another banner stretch for the Bengals first defense.

They got a fourth-and-one stuff at their 23, their fifth sack of the preseason (edge Sam Hubbard) and their fourth turnover of the year when middle linebacker Logan Wilson stripped out the ball at the Washington 35 to set up rookie Evan McPherson's 37-yard field goal with 4:19 left in the quarter for the game's first score.

That was it for the first teamers as they shut down old friend Ryan Fitzpatrick on 56 yards for no points in three series. Also in on the action again was undrafted rookie edge rusher Darius Hodge. After getting 1.5 sacks on Saturday night, Hodge got a shot on the second series with the first group and screamed off his left edge to deflect a Fitzpatrick pass.

But as good as the first defense was, the first offense was not. Quarterback Joe Burrow didn't play after teasing the faithful by participating crisply in warmups, but backup Brandon Allen needed some help. Rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase ended all three first team drives on drops and they could manage just one first down.

After not allowing a pass longer than 18 yards last Saturday night in their opener, the Bengals gave up 28 on the first play of Friday night when Fitzpatrick flipped a ball about five yards to wide open tight end Logan Thomas, the beneficiary of what appeared to have been a blown assignment at the second level.

But a blitz by strong safety Vonn Bell on the next snap (he didn't finish the sack) forced a Fitzpatrick incompletion and he threw another on one on third down as the Bengals contained the damage.

On Saturday night in Tampa the Bengals didn't allow a run longer than seven yards. But on the first snap of the second series, running back Antonio Gibson gouged them for nine yards up the middle, but the Bengals defensive line had the last word when they stuffed Gibson on fourth-and-one at the Bengals 23.

In his Bengals debut, tackle Larry Ogunjobi shoved back Gibson and had help from nose tackles D.J. Reader and Josh Tupou. And the play was set up on third down by that pressure from Hodge when he came off the edge and tipped Fitzpatrick's pass that was somehow caught but shy of the line.

Another impressive defensive play by the firsts included cornerback Chidobe Awuzie going step for step with Scary Terry McLaurin into the end zone for an incompletion.

But the second-teamers kept it going even though they gave up more yards. After nickel cornerback Jalen Davis had tipped passes for two interceptions in Tampa, he came up big again Friday. He forced the tying field goal on third-and-ten when he undercut Adam Humphries' route and Fitzpatrick overthrew it out of the end zone. Then on third down he forced another punt when he blew up backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke's screen with a diving tackle.

The Bengals' first drive on offense was not good and set the tone for their next two series. Mixon's well-blocked screen on first down for 16 yards was negated by a hold on left guard Quinton Spain, Mixon could get just yard on a toss left, Allen overthrew open wide receiver Tee Higgins at the sticks for a first down and before the third down snap right tackle Riley Reiff false started before Chase dropped a slant.

With Xavier Su'a-Filo getting the start at right guard instead of Michael Jordan, the Bengals simply couldn't get any running room for Mixon (two carries for four yards) or Samaje Perine (two carries for three yards) and Allen finished the half just five of 13 for 29 yards.

Chase, the first-round pick, just couldn't find the handle. All three balls were inside the harsh marks and he couldn't haul them even though he was able to get at least a hand on one of them and both on two of them.

After Wilson stripped the ball and slot cornerback Mike Hilton recovered at the Washington 35, they immediately got it to the Washington 24 on first-down play action when Higgins made a nice stretching 11-yard catch. But after Perine followed Reiff and Su'a-Filo for five yards, Allen overthrew Higgins on a go route to the right corner and on third down Chase couldn't win a contested ball over the middle with cornerback Benjamin St-Juste to bring on McPherson.

After that third and final series, the second team came on with an offensive line centered by rookie Trey Hilton with Jordan at left guard and Isaiah Prince at left tackle and rookie Jackson Carman at right guard and Fred Johnson at right tackle.

The Bengals didn't convert a third down on six tries in the half and had just 55 total yards with running back Chris Evans finding just 14 yards on four carries.

Head coach Zac Taylor sent out for his captains all offense: wide receiver Tyler Boyd, running back Joe Mixon and tight end C.J. Uzomah.

View some of the top images from the Bengals' second preseason game of 2021 facing the Washington Football Team.