TAMPA- If you've watched the Bengals offense in prime time in the Green-Dalton era, you can mark this down as a summer rerun.
Quarterback Andy Dalton got sacked three times in the first quarter and threw two interceptions in the second quarter, one for a pick-six that staked Tampa Bay to a 25-11 victory in Monday night's game at Raymond James Stadium.
How odd of a score? No regular-season game in the NFL has ever been 25-11.
Then following the two picks, Bucs cornerback Mike Jenkins got a helmet on the ball carried by running back Jeremy Hill to force a fumble, making the meltdown complete with three turnovers on six plays in the middle of the second quarter.
"Obviously we couldn't get going offensively," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "We had a couple of opportunities, but we didn't convert. And then we had the turnovers and you know what happens then. Defensively we have to get the ball tackled. I said I thought we tackled well last week. Tonight was a step backward."
Early in the second quarter wide receiver A.J. Green let a strike on the sidelines slip through his hands and Buccaneers cornerback Alterraun Vernber returned the tip 24 yards for a touchdown.
Then a few plays later, Dalton tried to drop it to tight end Tyler Eifert in the middle of Tampa's signature two-deep zone and he threw it too high. Safety Bradley McDougald picked it off and ran it back 38 yards to the Bengals 12.
Backup quarterback Mike Glennon checked in for the Bucs and they got backed up to the Bengals 22 on third-and-20 on yet another hold. The Bengals brought an all-out blitz and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was left alone with wide receiver Russell Shepard and Shepard beat him at the line of scrimmage for a 22-yard TD to make it 20-0.
Then following the Hill fumble, the Bucs got a 53-yard field goal from Patrick Murray to make it 23-0.
There was still 7:08 left in the half and the Bucs backups were in, but Lewis kept the first offense out there and still not much went right. They got their biggest play of the night when Jenkins was called for a 37-yard pass interference penalty working on wide receiver Marvin Jones.
But the drive stalled and they had to settle for rookie Tom Obarski's 37-yard field goal with 2:46 left in the half to make it 23-3. Dalton had Eifert open down the middle at the goal line, but before Eifert could put it away, safety D.J. Swearinger dislodged it with a vicious hit to the ribs. Then on third-and-five, Dalton had Green open on the left sideline for a first down and missed him.
The No. 1 offense that supplied such a crisp six-play touchdown drive ten days ago in the pre-season opener against the Giants gave them nothing after an opening-play 14-yard comeback route from Dalton to Green.
In fact, they went backwards for the rest of the first quarter, getting sacked three times and scrounging for minus-16 yards.
On the third series, Dalton was sacked on back-to-back plays after Hill lost a yard on first down when Eifert couldn't fend off linebacker Danny Lansanah. The sacks were products of problems with stunts. End Larry English came up the middle for one and the other came when defensive tackle Gerald McCoy got the edge on right guard Kevin Zeitler and split the sack with right end George Johnson.
A stunt for a sack on third down blew up the second series as the Bengals had trouble passing it off and right tackle Eric Winston was also called for a hold.
Dalton finished just six of 13 for 46 yards and McCoy summed it up.
"This defense is predicated off of the front four getting a four-man rush of the quarterback and, not just that, but stopping the run, which we were able to do," McCoy said. "That made him have to pass the ball and when you make a team get one dimensional and you have four guys who can rush the passer, that's hard to beat."
The Bengals hadn't played in 10 days, but the numbers they pumped up against the Giants were still lofty. They came into the game leading the NFL in rushing per game and were second in total offense and third in total defense per game.
The defense also couldn't reproduce their two three-and-out efforts of ten days ago.
Bucs running back Doug Martin took advantage of shoddy tackling on four runs of 52 yards as Tampa opened the game with a flawless 80-yard touchdown drive that never reached third down. Martin broke a 30-yard run despite being hemmed in on a sweep to his right. But defensive tackle Domata Peko and linebacker Vincent Rey and other Bengals missed a free shot at him on the sideline.
That set up quarterback Jameis Winston's one-yard touchdown run just 4:06 into the game off a play-action bootleg that caught linebacker Emmanuel Lamur in no man's land as Winston rolled to his right. Lamur dropped and Winston ran into the end zone.
Martin also had a 15-yard run aided by another missed tackle on the drive and Winston fired an 11-yard completion in the middle of safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
But the defense responded to post back-to-back three-and-outs as the Bucs were hounded by 11 penalties in the half. They blew up their own second series on pass interference and holding and on the third series Winston tried to pick on Kirkpatrick on second and third down and Kirkpatrick defended each time. But Winston had Tampa smiling, completing eight of 13 passes for 90 yards.
The Bengals did get some good defensive plays. Cornerback Adam Jones knocked down a pass in the end zone and on the last series of the half, linebacker Chris Carter and right end Margus Hunt registered sacks. It was Hunt's first game of the preseason and he looked to be recovered from his back injury.
The first defense also had some good pass rush and defensive tackle Geno Atkins and Wallace Gilberry split a sack of Winston.
Lamur (hamstring) and Iloka (knee) left because of injuries. Iloka was originally called probable before he was scratched.
Backup quarterback AJ McCarron made his NFL debut on the opening drive of the second half behind the backup offensive line consisting of right tackle Matt O'Donnell, right guard Chris Jasperse, center T.J. Johnson, left guard Tanner Hawkinson and left tackle Dan France.
It was an unsteady start. Hawkinson and wide receiver Greg Little were both called for holds on the first snap. One play later they got hit with an illegal formation call by France. Then on his first pass, McCarron slightly hung it up toward the left sideline and Swearinger had time to knock it away from a leaping Little.
The next series started the same way with O'Donnell caught on a hold. Then rookie wide receiver Mario Alford dropped a nice ball with some mustard over the middle and the third-and-forever was short when Little took a crossing pattern four yards shy of the first down.
The second-team goal-line defense hauled down 240-pound Bucs rookie running back Dominque Brown, a Cincinnati high school product, four straight times from the 2 for a goal-line stand to end a grueling 7:41 drive. Bengals rookie linebacker P.J. Dawson slanted off the edge to make the stop on fourth down. On third down, rookie linebacker Trevor Roach combined with rookie safety Derron Smith to stop Brown up the middle. On second down, veteran safety Shiloh Keo submerged Brown for the stop.
But the Bengals couldn't budge Tampa Bay off the line and when Lansanah blew by Bengals rookie fullback Mark Weisman, the Bucs had an unencumbered safety when Lansanah tackled running back Cedric Peerman in the end zone to up Tampa Bay's lead to 25-3.
By time McCarron got the ball back up with about eight minutes left in the game, he had only taken seven snaps. But he began to heat up in the hurryup and led the Bengals on an 80-yard TD drive. He did miss a 25-yard throw to a wide-open Denarius Moore, but he hooked up for first downs to rookie tight end Tyler Kroft and rookie wide receiver Jake Kumerow as he finished 11 of 15 passes for 97 yards, hitting Kumerow twice for 27 yards.
Rookie running back James Wilder came home to score the TD on a five-yard run with 2:45 left and scored the two-pointer on a sweep he finished off leaping for the pylon.
PRE-GAME NOTES: The Bengals' Not Expected To Play List grew a little longer than last week when head coach Marvin Lewis ruled out a dozen players for the preseason's second game Monday night against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
For the second straight game, starting right end Michael Johnson (knee), rookie backup left tackle Jake Fisher (shoulder), and starting right tackle Andre Smith (unknown) weren't expected to play. Also shelved again were backup wide receiver Onterio McCalebb (hamstring) and backup guard Trey Hopkins (leg).
A slate of players who were either injured against the Giants or during practice last week also weren't expected to play: defensive tackle Pat Sims (thigh), cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) and Brandon Ghee (hamstring), as well as wide receiver Tevin Reese (hamstring).
Plus, the three players yet to be activated from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) as they rehab knee injuries, starting WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict, backup linebacker Sean Porter, and backup left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, also weren't expected to play.
Rookie Tom Obarski is expected to make at least most of the kicks as Mike Nugent recovers from a sore muscle. Wallace Gilberry got the nod for Michael Johnson at right end and Eric Winston started for Andre Smith at right tackle.
The game captains were quarterback Andy Dalton, left guard Clint Boling, safety Reggie Nelson, right end Wallace Gilberry, and safety Shaun Williams.