DETROIT - The Bengals offered a complete performance in the first half Thursday night at Ford Field when both offensive units scored touchdowns the first time they had the ball and backup safety Derron Smith went 60 yards with an interception return for another touchdown and their 20-6 half-time lead over the Lions grew to a 30-14 victory.
After safety Floyd Raven intercepted Jake Rudock, the third Lions quarterback of the night, Mike Nugent hit a 50-yard field goal to make it 23-6 with 11:02 left in the game and calm some fears.
Nugent missed two more kicks Thursday six days after missing a 48-yard field goal right. But after hooking the 33-yard extra point after Smith's touchdown and hooking a 45-yard field goal try in the third quarter, Nugent drilled the 50-yarder in the building where his 54-yarder at the gun beat the Lions in a 2013 regular-season game.
After shutting down Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on all three of his third-down attempts with their first defense, the Bengals' No. 2 defense greeted backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky with Smith's touchdown that gave them a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
"I'm pleased with the rotation with our first group on offense," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "Defensively we settled down after a not-so-great start and turned in some good plays. It's good for our first defense to play against a good offense like this in the preseason."
But in the Dept. of When It Rains It Pours, the Bengals' Jake Fisher, starting at right tackle for the injured Cedric Ogbuehi, got hurt on the first snap of the second series. He left with a lower right leg injury and was given what was called a precautionary X-Ray. He was out for the game and veteran Eric Winston became the third No. 1 right tackle in three quarters.
Smith, who had 15 career picks at Fresno State before the Bengals took him in the sixth round in 2015, got his first one as a Bengal when he jumped a sideline route and had no one in his path as they racked up their second unconventional score of the preseason to go along with rookie wide receiver Alex Erickson's 80-yard punt return touchdown in last Friday night's opener.
"I just came down into the flat, and the quarterback was looking the other way," Smith said. "He tried to come over there late, and I don't think he ever saw me. I was just able to make a play on the ball, and it was clear sailing to the end zone."
After Nugent's 50-yarder, Erickson, the undrafted rookie from Wisconsin, racked up another 30-yard return. Against the Vikings he made anywhere from four to seven defenders miss. On Thursday, he made one miss right when he caught it and then just zipped up the middle to set up quarterback Keith Wenning's one-yard touchdown run that made it 30-6 with 4:36 left in the game.
The Bengals' first offense wasted no time grabbing the touchdown that eluded them last week when they cashed in on Thursday night's first series of the game. After quarterback Andy Dalton hit all five of his passes for 63 yards, running back Jeremy Hill's nine-yard touchdown gave them a 7-3 lead with 5:44 left in the first quarter.
The Bengals' first touchdown drive displayed another diving catch by rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd (this one for 19 yards to convert a third-and-four) and another dose of magic by Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J Green (this one an ultra leaping 15-yard catch over the middle), and then left tackle Andrew Whitworth turned aside defensive end Brandon Copeland and Hill scooted through the hole to please head coach Marvin Lewis and finish the eight-play drive.
Earlier in the drive Hill also added a nine-yard bolt running behind fullback Ryan Hewitt's lead block that wiped out a linebacker and featured Hill's decisive cut.
"We moved the ball well the first series. It felt good. Things were clicking," Dalton said. Tyler made a nice catch and the line opened a nice hole for Jeremy on his touchdown run. There was a third and short we missed. We need to pick those up. But overall, it was a pretty good effort for us."
Boyd, the second-round pick from Pittsburgh, took another curtain call when he capped off backup quarterback Andy Dalton's four-minute, 67-yard touchdown drive behind the first offensive line at the half with a 12-yard touchdown catch with 12 seconds left.
Boyd kept his hot preseason going when he got behind safety Tavon Wilson down the seam and McCarron dropped it in for his second touchdown pass of the preseason. On top of his 112 passer rating from Friday night, McCarron completed five of eight passes in his first drive Thursday for 51 yards for a 120.3 rating.
Running back Rex Burkhead was huge in the drive ripping off an 18-yard run behind left guard Clint Boling and left tackle Trey Hopkins, the lone back-up lineman in the game. Burkhead then converted a third-and-10 when he caught a swing pass on the sideline and stumbled for the first down while cutting to the middle for 11 yards.
With the ball at the Lions 15, Burkhhead caught a flare pass in the flat and made two defenders miss for a 12-yard gain. When fullback Jeff Luc was called for a hold, Boyd and McCarron went to work.
But the play of the drive might have been McCarron's second-and-11 shot to wide receiver James Wright. Wright caught it over the middle and when he sensed cornerback Quandre Diggs overplaying him, he cut it back the other way and picked up 11 yards for the first down.
After their one TD, the Bengals then suffered two three-and-outs when they couldn't convert a third-and-one when running back Giovani Bernard got stoned and a third-and-two when Tate couldn't get free on a short throw. Dalton finished seven of nine for 78 yards.
Back-to-back catches for 50 yards by old friend Marvin Jones staked the Lions to a 3-0 lead after their first offense drove 80 yards against the Bengals first defense on their first series.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, working against Jones on those two plays, had the last word when he covered Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's third-and-goal pass from the 5 to wide receiver Golden Tait in the back of the end zone for an incompletion to force Devon Bell's 24-yard field goal barely five minutes into the game.
"I got underneath the receiver a little bit and was able to force his hands down some on the ball," Kirkpatrick said. "But that wasn't the only good play we made down there. Michael Johnson kind of got the momentum turned around when he dropped their runner for a loss."
The Bengals rose up once the Lions reached the 5 as Johnson, the right end, logged his second tackle for a loss of the drive. That was after it looked like Kirkpatrick could make a play on a high ball to Jones, but Jones came down with it and did his best A.J. Green getting both feet in-bounds for a 32-yard gain.
Jones had a nice first quarter against his mates with four catches for 65 yards, but when Stafford went for him on one third down, the Bengals' Double A Gap blitz look forced him to throw to Jones in double coverage and cornerback Adam Jones defended the incompletion to force the punt.
Left end Carlos Dunlap blew up that drive on the play before when he abused the tight end in a terrible mismatch that resulted in Dunlap sacking and stripping Stafford to set up a third-and-15. Stafford left after hitting eight of 11 passes for 113 yards.
PRE-GAME NOTES: It looked like new starting wide receiver Brandon LaFell wouldn't make his Bengals debut again Thursday night when he was on head coach Marvin Lewis' list of those not expected to play against the Lions at Ford Field in the second pre-season game.
LaFell, nursing a ligament injury in his right hand, hasn't been ruled out of the Sept. 11 regular-season opener and Lewis indicated earlier this week he could play in the preseason.
Other than that, it was a No Surprise List headed by right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (toe), igniting the move of backup left tackle Jake Fisher to start in his place.
Except for wide receiver Mario Alford, who hurt his ankle in the pre-season opener last Friday night, the others on the list also didn't play against the Vikings:
WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict (Coach's Decision), tight ends Tyler Eifert (ankle) and Tyler Kroft (knee), cornerback Darqueze Dennard (ankle), defensive tackles Andrew Billings (knee) and Brandon Thompson (knee), wide receiver Jake Kumerow (hamstring), and kicker Zach Hocker (ankle).
Brandon Tate drew the starting assignment to replace LaFell as he did Friday. Look for a new kick returner in the person of running back Rex Burkhead as the Bengals continue to look for options in both return games.
Cincinnati Bengals take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in week 2 of the preseason 8/18/2016