The good news?
The Bengals first-team offense purred on a 10-play drive and they bolted to a 17-6 victory over the Jets as backup running back Cedric Peerman scored touchdowns on a blocked punt and a one-yard run and the defense allowed the Jets in the red zone just once.
The bad news?
The Bengals preseason started in stunning fashion Friday night before 44,161 at Paul Brown Stadium when three key players had to be helped off the field or carted off in the first 4:45 of the year with right knee injuries.
The Bengals took a 10-3 halftime lead with 22 seconds left after punter Kevin Huber pinned the Jets on the 4. Linebacker Dan Skuta blocked the punt and Peerman fell on it in the end zone for the touchdown.
Cincinnati's prized young pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, went down in a heap with 10:15 left in the first quarter and was down for several minutes. He grabbed his right knee, but he did leave the field slowly under his own power, although he was doubtful to return. CBS Sports reported that it was a knee strain, but Dunlap was carried into the locker room after a few minutes and there was no statement from the team.
Earlier in that second drive for the Jets, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga had to be helped off the field with a right knee injury and he was also doubtful to return. But, like Dunlap, he was walking around on his own power. They both were on the Bengals sideline with ice packs on their knees before Dunlap went into the locker room.
But it didn't look that good for left guard Travelle Wharton when he went down with a right knee injury on the first third-down snap of the season. Wharton, signed in the offseason from Carolina, got carted off the field and was replaced by Clint Boling.
By the time the carnage ended, the Bengals offense was able to string together a 15-play, 76-yard drive on its second series and took a 3-0 lead on Mike Nugent's 22-yard field goal 58 seconds in the second quarter.
It was a crisp effort with quarterback Andy Dalton converting third-and-longs on a seven-yard shot to slot receiver Andrew Hawkins over the middle and an 18-yard throw to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis that beat linebacker Bart Scott in space. Dalton got the Bengals into the red zone on a 19-yard throw to tight end Jermaine Gresham when he took a catch in the flat and took it upfield to the Jets 5.
But the problems in the red zone and on the goal line that hampered the Bengals last year resurfaced. Green-Ellis got hauled down for a gain of one on the perimeter on first down and on second down wide receiver A.J. Green got a great release inside Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis on a quick slant and Dalton put it right there. But it bounced off Green's hands in the end zone for a rare drop. Then on third down, Dalton had no one available and threw it over Gresham's head to get Nugent on the field.
"It was OK for the first preseason game. We had a good drive, but obviously we didn't put it in (the end zone)," Dalton said. "I think BenJarvus showed what he can do as a runner and a receiver for us."
That was it for Dalton and the first offense as he finished with four of nine passing for 54 yards and a rating of 81.8.
"My first thought is that we need to be a little crisper in the passing game," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We had a couple of drops in the first series that hurt us. We came back and got a good drive, but obviously you've got to finish those."
Tebowmania arrived on the next series, helped along by another special teams penalty when kicker Thomas Weber kicked it out of bounds. Working against mostly the defensive backups, Tebow did make a big play with a 12-yard scramble in which he gave Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins a pretty good move.
"Defensively, our first unit did a pretty good job. But when the second quarterback is in there, you've got to make sure you tackle him," Lewis said.
But the Bengals defense held for a field goal when a secondary with cornerbacks Adam Jones and Terence Newman and safety Robert Sands forced Tebow to throw it away.
The Bengals took another injury when strong safety Taylor Mays took a hit to the head when he came up to make a hit on a short pass and he had to leave with a questionable return.
The Bengals defense overcame a fourth-down penalty on a punt on the second Jets drive because they were illegally lined up over the center. But the Bengals got off the field on a sack by outside linebacker Manny Lawson and rookie tackle Devon Still got a hand on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to force a punt on third down.
The defense started the preseason in style when Maualuga blitzed on the game's third play to sack Sanchez when defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer called a double-backer blitz with outside backer Thomas Howard.
"I think we did (well). Guys were flying around, playing solid and stout against the run," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "We started with a couple three-and-outs, which is always what you want to do."
Green-Ellis had a nice Bengals debut. Along with the big catch, he broke a 12-yard run on a sweep to the left with the help of the blocking of tight end Donald Lee. He finished his night with 22 yards on seven carries.
"It was a good start. I hope that when my number is called," The Law Firm said, "I can make plays catching the ball as well as running it."
The rookies put on a show in the second half. Fifth-round wide receiver Marvin Jones caught a long one from quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and his cutback turned it into a 45-yard play.
That turned into Peerman's one-yard touchdown run with 10:20 left in the third quarter that made it 17-3.
Then with about six minutes left in the third quarter, free-agent rookie middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict made a leaping interception on Tebow as the Jets were driving into the red zone. Tebow didn't see Burfict underneath the route as Burfict secured his second pick in five days dating back to Sunday's mock game.
Tebow left the game 4-of-8 passing for 28 yards, along with four runs for 39 yards.
Peerman's one-yard touchdown plunge looks to be a sign of the times with Wharton feared to have a season-ending knee injury. Boling, along with backup fullback James Develin, made the blocks.
Boling, a fourth-rounder from 2011, may be having the strongest camp on the offensive line. The coaches have been pleased with how he came back more flexible and stronger and now it looks like he's the starter for the long haul.
Skuta had a big night. Early in the fourth quarter with the Jets threatening the red zone for the first time in the game, he blitzed up the middle, got blocked to the ground by running back Terrance Ganaway, got back up and sacked third-string quarterback Greg McElroy. That forced Nick Folk's 38-yard field goal.
With 9:06 left in the game, the Bengals racked up their fifth sack of the game when outside linebacker Dontay Moch got in on his second sack of the game and forced a fumble that was recovered by rookie defensive tackle Brandon Thompson at the Jets 43.
That translated into Weber's 37-yard field-goal attempt, which he missed right.
The Bengals got some good production out of two young defensive players that they have moved around. Moch is getting more work as an end and that's where he got first sack earlier in the second half when he pulled a twist with Micah Johnson, lined up at tackle. Johnson has been switched from linebacker to end.
Moch, the third-rounder from 2011, was all over the place with those 1.5 sacks, two tackles, and a forced fumble. He also forced a holding call. The depth chart is tight on the D-line and at linebacker. But the Bengals have time to figure out what to do with Moch since he's suspended by the NFL for the first four games.
REFS REVEALED: The list of eight officials working Friday night's preseason opener at Paul Brown Stadium during the labor impasse with the NFL consists of six that have worked in other pro leagues on a crew headed by 14-year referee Jerry Frump.
Frump has also worked Division I and Division III college ball. The most senor man is 26-year man Bill Etzler, who has also worked Division I and II. Field judge Tony Robinson has also worked 18 years in I and III, back judge Larry Orrico has 16 years in I and III, side judge Randal Beesley eight years in I and II, and alternate David Clisham 12 years in Division III.
Umpire Brian Taylor, who has two years in Division II, and line judge Charles Derrick, who has 14 years in Division III, are the two with no pro experience.
BENSON TICKETED: With word that running back Cedric Benson is expected to sign with the Packers, the 2012 reunion tour at PBS of former big name Bengals continues. The Packers are in here Aug. 23 for the next home preseason game. Then wide receiver Chad Johnson, who went to six Pro Bowls with the Bengals, arrives Oct. 7 with the Dolphins. Then two old first-round picks come in, Giants linebacker Keith Rivers on Nov. 11 and Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer on Nov. 25. When the Ravens end the season here Dec. 30, they'll be here with right guard Bobbie Williams.
INJURY LIST: No surprises with head coach Marvin Lewis's injury list of players not expected to play against the Jets Friday night:
Quarterback Tyler Hansen. Cornerbacks Brandon Ghee, Dre Kirkpatrick, Jason Allen, Shaun Prater. Defensive linemen Robert Geathers and Pat Sims. Running back Bernard Scott. Wide receiver Ryan Whalen. Guard Matt Murphy.
The most serious looks to be Ghee, who may be out for the year with a wrist injury. Prater (knee) could also be done for the season. It looks like Scott (hand) is going to miss the rest of the preseason, but return in September at some point. Geathers figures to be back for the opener after a knee scope.
The rest, including Sims, could be back to practice as early as Sunday.