Bengals Jump Bucs, Lead 27-9 At The Half

Buccaneers Bengals Football
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) celebrates a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

And a child shall lead them.

After two sluggish drives to open the game that briefly cost them another starting tight end, rookie Jordan Franks caught a 32-yard pass on his first NFL snap to highlight a drive capped by running back Joe Mixon's one-yard touchdown run with 3:04 left in the first quarter to jump-start the Bengals' 27-9 halftime lead.

The Bengals defense did its share with two interceptions of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston in the half, two sacks and they didn't allow the NFL's No. 1 offense points until 4:36 left in the half when wide receiver DeSean Jackson ran by cornerback William Jackson for a 60-yard touchdown play.

It appeared Will was shadowing DeSean, an uncharacteristic move by the Bengals scheme, but it looked like Will was looking for help on DeSean's streaking post. After Randy Bullock missed an extra point, he then kicked the ball out of bounds to give Tampa Bay the ball at its 40 with 2:34 left. The Bengals forced Chandler Catanzaro's 25-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half when Winston overthrew wide receiver Mike Evans covered in the end zone by cornerback Dre Kirpatrick.

That was the 18th time in the last 24 games a Bengals foe had scored in the final two minutes of the half, but it couldn't spoil a feel-good 30 minutes this offense desperately needed after scoring just ten points last week in Kansas City against the NFL's last-ranked defense.

That's all it took for Mixon to reach a season-high 114 on 14 carries and Andy Dalton went after a Tampa Bay defense allowing a 125 passer rating with a 129.6 of his own. He hit 13 of 20 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, the last one coming with 2:34 left on a 17-yard fade where wide receiver A.J. Green out-jumped rookie corner Carlton Davis III.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd also only needed a half to join the 100-yard club with 112 on six catches.

But the injuries kept piling up, losing left guard Clint Boling (back) and rush end Carl Lawson (knee).

Franks, undrafted out Central Florida, was promoted from the practice squad last week when Mason Schreck became the third tight end to suffer a season-ending injury in Kansas City. When C.J. Uzomah, the last tight end standing from training camp, re-injured a shoulder on the second series, Franks found himself going in motion and running a wheel route down the right sideline on linebacker Devonte Bond. Dalton put it right there at the Tampa 31 and two snaps later he went back side to Boyd and they probably should have given him the touchdown when he dove on the pylon at the end of the 28-yard play that set up Mixon's TD.

Uzomah did return.

Up 7-0, the Bengals picked Winston a second time, this time defensive end Sam Hubbard contained Winston in the pocket, mirrored his moves and then got his hand on a pass that was intercepted by middle linebacker Preston Brown to set the Bengals up at their own 42.

The series was a grind job. After left tackle Cordy Glenn was called for a hold, head coach Marvin Lewis went for it on fourth down for the second time in the game on fourth-and-three from the Bucs 36. Green picked a good time to make his first catch of the day with 10:53 left in the first half on a sliding seven-yarder out of the slot. Then Mixon rolled for 21 on a misdirection sweep where he took off behind Glenn as they motioned to the right.

They went up 14-0 when Dalton lined up three receivers to his left with Boyd, Green and Alex Erickson from in to out on third-and-6 from the Tampa Bay 9. Linebacker Adarius Taylor had no chance against Boyd down the seam and he plucked Dalton's bullet by barely turning around.

After the Bengals kept swarming Winston (left end Carlos Dunlap dropped running back Ronald Jones II for a loss in the backfield and Hubbard added a sack), Boyd strafed that shaky secondary for 45 yards on two catches and Mixon walked in behind right guard Alex Redmond and center Trey Hopkins for an eight-yard touchdown with 5:07 left in the half.

Then Mixon put on his show on the next series to set up Green's TD at the end of the half with the longest run of his career, a 43-yarder he began stalking the left perimeter. A couple of jump-cuts and missed tackles later in the middle of the field, the ball was at the Bucs 17 and Green was waiting.

The tone of the day may have been set by Bengals safety Shawn Williams in the middle of the first quarter in a 0-0 game the Bucs had blasted into the red zone at the 18. But Winston threw a touchdown pass to Williams instead of Evans.

The Bengals ended the half with eight interceptions on the season after getting 11 all last year.

Images from week 8 as the Bengals host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.